Iron Man 3 sees Shane Black take over the writing and directing duties from Jon Favreau. This move excited a lot of fans due to Black’s celebrated credentials and his famous ability for writing witty dialogue and whip-smart stories. He is the perfect writer for Tony Stark and Iron Man, giving Stark the best development in the franchise to date. Black’s script essentially rebuilds Tony Stark, he is no longer needed by the Government and after a public misstep his home is destroyed, he is in back arse of nowhere with nothing left and he is presumed dead. Stark must rediscover himself and find the urge to save the world again.
This provides the film with its sharpest and most touching moments. Black introduces a boy who seems to remind Tony of a younger version of himself. They are both intelligent smart-arses with a rebellious streak. In these 30+ minutes worth of scenes we discover the real Tony Stark, he drops the attitude and lets this boy in. These kind of moments are so rare for superhero films, it makes Iron Man more a man and beautifully connects the audience to him.
The development of Stark is outstanding, but it is a shame that all other characters and villains get forgotten. Superhero films at the moment seem unable to give the audience great villains and Iron Man 3 is another example of this. Instead of having an all-in-one villain, Iron Man 3 opts for 4 major villains, each with different characteristics and challenges for Iron Man to face. It is frustrating, because spreading the villainy results in none of the villains actually being scary or ever feeling like a threat.
When it comes to the crux of the plot, Black has mish-mashed 7 or 8 different Iron Man comic arcs into 1 film. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. The Extremis arc is really interesting and plays well on screen, it is very cinematic and adds a lot to the action. The inclusion of The Mandarin is a wasted opportunity to have a strong villain, the character is often regarded as the best Iron Man villain, but here the character is ‘forced’ into a plot that doesn’t require him. Also questionable are each of the villains motivations, which are never fully explored and left me wondering why at the end. Also not explored enough are the terrorism and political subplots which feel tacked on. Black has a lot of ideas but never goes far enough with them.
Character development and the overarching story may be equal parts good and bad, but if there is one thing that is without a doubt impeccable it is the gigantic, original and thrilling action sequences. Iron Man 3 has the perfect balance of practical and CGI action. Robert Downey Jr. only actually gets in the Iron Man suit for two scenes, between that he uses his smarts to dispatch baddies and even get his own little James Bond moment. It has the most action of any Marvel film yet and I can’t fault any of the sequences, they are a blast to sit through.
The cast fluctuate between great and awful. Robert Downey Jr. delivers easily his best performance as Tony Stark, his quiet moments are poignant and really connect. Paltrow and Cheadle don’t get much screen time but both do solid jobs, especially in the final third. Pearce is not nearly menacing enough when required. Hall is mostly pointless and shows nothing in her brief role. Kingsley is completely wasted. Despite the bigger name villains, James Badge Dale is the only one that shows any kind of menace and provides a good physical challenge for Tony Stark, providing the film with a series of great fights.
Shane Black nails the development of our hero, you’ve never seen Tony Stark this vulnerable and it is the perfect continuation of the character from The Avengers. Black also nails his action sequences, he shows a natural ability to excite and has a great visual flair. It is a shame then that the supporting characters are so miss-handled and the plot twists are so damn predictable. If it was able to get these two aspects right then the final product would be an almost perfect superhero.
In the end though we get yet another competently made and exciting action film with a great performance from Robert Downey Jr. that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Whether it be Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes or something else entirely, I hope one day somebody gives RDJ the perfect action film to top off his already stellar career.
3.5 out of 5.0