Iron Man 3 (2013)
Glad to have you back, Tony.
Iron Man 3 picks up with our genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist struggling to keep it together after his near-death experience in The Big Apple. He’s staying up for days, he’s having panic attacks in public, and he’s too damn busy with his suit collection to give Pepper the time of day. Folks, it ain’t good. On top of all that, an international terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin has been wreaking havoc in the US because the President’s a jerk or something. Next thing you know, Tony’s calling the dude out after his best bud almost gets vaporized, and things just go south from there. So after learning the hard way why don’t give your address to terrorists and with everything in his life hanging in the balance, Tony starts to rebuild.
Now that we’ve had some time to properly reflect on the matter, I think we can all agree that the last time we caught up with Tony in Iron Man 2, the overall experience left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, Iron Man was no easy act to follow, but following it up with one big teaser for The Avengers was not what the doctor ordered. It was a letdown alright, but in the spirit of letting bygones be bygones, here we are with our very first entry in a post-Avengers universe. And given the way that one went, one couldn’t help but be hopeful about this.
The first upside to life after The Avengers is that we’re finally done with all those goddamn Easter Eggs. No more nerds twerking in the aisles over Mjolnir showing up, no more waiting for the credits to end just to have Sam Jackson pay us another visit. I can’t speak for the masses on this one, but all that hooey was never much of a draw to begin with, and with each year we got closer to assembling these fools, it was becoming more about fan service than telling good stories. But that’s all over now. Now we can rest easy until The Avengers 2.
As for the current state of the Marvel movie universe, we’re left with the lingering effects of those Chitauri jerks as evidenced in the form of witty asides and Tony coming to grips with his own mortality after, you know, setting off a nuke in space. Oh yes, it’s a big ol’ upgrade from the way it once was, even if it doesn’t add all that much to the story here.
On that note, am I the only one who thought that Tony didn’t seem phased by almost dying and whatnot? For chrissakes, the dude was housing shawarma not ten minutes later. Well apparently it was a way bigger deal than he was making it out to be because it’s now the driving force behind his fragile state and is a big factor in why he throws down with The Mandarin. And I get it, now that he’s got Pepper he’s got more than just himself to worry about, but it still seems kinda weak as far as character development goes, especially considering the long list of inner demons that Tony’s had to fight in the comics. Not to mention the handful of times we’ve almost seen him die.
So Tony’s anxiety certainly isn’t the best thing this story has going for it, but that’s okay, because this here is a Shane Black picture. Shane Black knows what he’s doing, and if that name ain’t ringing any bells, it’s high time you did your homework.
For all you out there who have yet to see Iron Man 3, do yourself a favor and go watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang first. It’s a great little number by Shane Black (our writer/director of the hour) and it’ll only make you appreciate what he does here that much more. Before the credits even start, you’ll know this is one of his movies just from the sound of Downey’s rambling voice-over. Being familiar, being a fan and knowing full well that no one reads a Shane Black script quite like Robert Downey Jr., it was an awesome way to start things off. But alas, the excitement is short-lived.
See, the thing about the first Act of Iron Man 3 is that it feels a lot like the entirety of Iron Man 2. From side characters to side plots, mental states to past encounters, the first Act is juggling a bunch of things at once and doing its best to establish them all within a 30-minute span. Here’s what Tony’s new suits can do, here’s the people you’ll want to remember for later, yada yada yada. It comes with the territory on occasions like these and Joss Whedon proved that it could most definitely be done. But since it doesn’t give itself any time to breathe or play to Black’s strengths as a writer, it just feels rushed as a result. At least it affords a couple moments for Downey and Jon Favreau to chew the scenery, but these are also the best scenes by a mile and they just made me wish there was more to go around.
Given how attention-grabbing that opening monologue is, it’s too bad that the first Act rings more like Shane Black writing a Marvel movie instead of a Shane Black writing a Shane Black movie…that just happens to star Iron Man. The end result bordered on vapid and it was concerning enough to have me bracing for what followed. But, boy howdy, did things start righting themselves once that first half-hour wrapped up.
From that point forward, it goes right back to being a Shane Black movie, one that only gets better by the minute. The dialogue gets funnier to the point where I was laughing out loud from one-liner to one-liner, the plot goes in some wonderfully unexpected directions that would make Chris Nolan nod in approval and now I’m still wondering whether it’s better than Iron Man? As much as I dig that movie and everything it did right as a blueprint of sorts for this genre, there’s really something unique about the chances this one takes.
At the end of the day, it’s just a winning combination of writing, casting and directing that couldn’t be better suited for a franchise like this. Shane Black can write some snappy dialogue; no one can deliver it quite like Downey. Downey’s playing Tony Stark; Tony Stark is all about the snappy dialogue. Need someone to play the best villain in the series? Good call getting Ben Kingsley to steal the freaking show. Want to riddle your movie with some of the most creative and exciting action scenes in recent memory, scenes that at times rival those in The Avengers? Double good call giving the reigns to the creative genius behind Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight. Just some good calls all around, really.
Yeah, it takes a little while to get there, but once the juices start flowing, this sucker’s firing on all cylinders. And with the exception of that first Act that’s easy enough to overlook when all is said and done, I can’t think of a damn thing worth complaining about. Maybe it doesn’t do character development as well as Joss Whedon did and I guess I can understand how some purists out there might be tiffed about some of the liberties it takes. But as someone who knows next to nothing about the source material, I really wish more movies of this sort would take liberties like these. This was a pleasant surprise, and even if I had been into the comics, I’d be surprised if I thought otherwise.
Not only that, but coming off the heels of a disappointing sequel and existing in the wake of Marvel’s magnum opus, Iron Man 3 had more reasons to fail than succeed. Yet succeed it did with flying colors. Kids, what can I say other than that it’s a total blast, it’s a bonafide crowd-pleaser and it’s a pretty swell way to kick off the summer. I wouldn’t call it “deep” by any means, but hey, that’s what Man of Steel is for.
The point is, a mighty good time was had by all and that’s more than enough to earn this baby an 8.
Shane Black and Ben Kingsley, man. Truly a thing of beauty.