Review: Iron Man 3

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Kick-starting Marvel’s phase two is Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 and the short version is, fellow new director Alan Taylor is going to have to step up his game for Thor: The Dark World come October this year.

 

There is always the worry that new director Shane Black would not be able to live up to the expectations set by Joss Whedon with  Avengers Assemble and the overall hype surrounding the Iron Man franchise, based on the fact that the third solo instalment of the man in the powered suit is only his second directorial feature film. Thankfully, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was not that bad a film and Iron Man 2 did not turn out to be as good as the original, so at least the film was not doomed from the start.

 

Without spoiling too much, the film begins with a flashback scene in 1998 that has an impact in the present. Stark trying to settle back into his plush life in the aftermath of his near-death in Avengers Assemble but finds that he is suffering from possibly post-traumatic stress that manifests as insomnia and anxiety attacks. In addition, a new threat has surfaced in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a flamboyant terrorist who is openly spearheading a string of bombings. Will Stark be able to take down The Mandarin in his condition? In this film, the age-old question of ‘does the suit make the man or does the man make the suit?’ is finally answered.

 

Nothing is as it seems, even the more ‘serious’ direction that Shane Black has supposedly drafted for the film. It does have its moments such as when one of Tony Stark’s closest confidantes ends up in the hospital, but the clock is ticking fast, and we are ushered on. The world believes Stark to be dead? Oh well, just another celebrity’s death that we will all survive. Iron Man 3 is unapologetically fast-paced and cynical, much like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which makes the film so hilarious. Stark is not meant to be the brooding hero like Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker, and that is why the film works.

 

Of course, the film is also as flawed as its titular hero. A huge amount of stars have been lined up for the film, but not everyone is well-utilized. For example, why is actor Ashley Hamilton credited as Jack Taggert a.k.a. Firepower? It would not have prickled so much if they just credited him as ‘Random henchman #1’ considering his limited role. Then again, Hamilton has it so much better than Wang Xueqi as Dr. Wu, who only appears onscreen for a minute just to be insulted by Robert Downey Jr.

 

Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen is just another skirt for Stark to chase, although the producers said that hers is a strong female character. How is being a ‘botanist’ in a private science institute a role model for feminists when almost all the characters in the film can hardly remember her title? James Badge Dale as Eric Savin has a slightly more prominent role as the chief henchman but he does not exude the amount of presence as say, Jai Courtney in Jack Reacher even though they have the same position.

 

In addition, there are questionable logic decisions in the story, such as the direction the film took for The Mandarin and the Extremis soldiers (T-1000s in an Iron Man film!). Ardent Marvel fans will most likely be disappointed, but Kingsley’s handling of his tricky role more than justifies his casting and so does Guy Pearce, with a knockout turn as Aldrich Killian. Also, why is the film in 3-D when it adds absolutely nothing? Why aren’t the other Avengers helping? Justifying it with the line that “It’s American business” is a little hard to swallow given that they tacked on a scene with a member of the Avengers at the end of the credits.

 

But these are a few dents in an otherwise well-executed film. The action choreography for Iron Man is so fluidly executed that there is the possibility that there was a whole team dedicated to thinking up various ways Stark can put on the Iron Man suit now that Mark-42 can attach themselves to his body. This is pure wish fulfilment, a stylish film packed with Stark and Iron Man action (Stark infiltrating The Mandarin’s hideout without his suit) that outright answers the question that the man makes the suit once and for all.

 

After three outings with Tony Stark, it is clear that Robert Downey Jr. can do no wrong with the role. He IS Tony Stark. However, Robert Downey Jr. shines the brightest when he has a match, and who understands this better than the man who penned Lethal Weapon and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? The best scenes are those where he shares the screen with someone, be it JARVIS, Don Cheadle or child actor Ty Simpkins who plays Harley, exchanging sentences back and forth like a good game of ping pong. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts has always been debatable since she seems to be the blonde older version of Kristen Stewart. Her lack of emotional range is not a problem when she is required to play the usual cool and efficient Pepper Potts, but comes off as jarring when she screams desperately for Tony or cries because they feel like an afterthought for her.

 

Iron Man 3 manages to successfully pick up the pace after Avengers Assemble with an exciting and thrilling flight complete with different varieties of Iron Man suits (there are now 42 of them), well-choreographed action sequences and tons of snark from Stark (sorry, could not resist). It is a return to form after the less satisfying Iron Man 2. For fans who were excited by the promotional trailers hinting at a darker turn for Iron Man, congratulations, you have been fooled by its Walt Disney’s smoke and mirrors act that dress up what Iron Man 3 actually is, not a superhero showcase film, but a whip smart comedy film featuring a superhero.

 

Verdict: 4 1/2 stars

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