Film Review: Iron Man 3

   Iron Man 3, despite appearing like a nightmare version of a Google technology conference, is a surprisingly old fashioned piece of cinema; something I mean in the best possible way. As recent years have seen superhero movies grow to take themselves as seriously as the ouevre of Vittorio De Sica, it appeared that the modern action film genre was beginning to lose the one aspect that made them watchable - fun.

   For those who remember the glorious 1980s hey-dey of action movies, the long period since, which has seen the warmth and humour saturated from the genre in favour of po-faced reverence and pseudo-intellectualism, has been a galling one. Shane Black, Iron Man 3's director, however, has thankfully done everything in his power to address this, sculpting an often hilarious, warm and all-round thrilling adventure which delightfully recalls, with retro abandon, the 1980s pomp of action romps  with it's quick wit and effortlessly stylish set pieces.

   Taking place in a post-Avengers world, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is not quite the man he once was. The quick wit and the trademark one-line brush-offs are still there but they've been newly purposed to act as a shield, a form of defense, for the mentally frail superhero who is still clearly traumatised from his earlier brush with death (something he simply refers to as "New York" for fear of confronting, or admitting to, his horror).

   Yet, as is the norm in the Marvel universe, crime does not sleep nor will it wait for a billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist to lick his wounds and dust himself down before inflicting a reign of terror once more. Stark is at his most vulnerable, frequently suffering public anxiety attacks, when a new villain named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) claims to be behind a series of terror attacks, one of which is named as responsible for leaving Stark's long-time confidante Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) hospitalised. With brash negligence, Stark gives out his home address to the international media to try and entice The Mandarin into fighting; the weakened Iron Man, however, is no match for the onslaught which greets him and leaves him separated from his suffering partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

   From this point Iron Man 3 hits the ground running as Stark, at his weakest, finds his defense mechanisms kicking in with more and more frequency and finds his quick wit lashing out with increasing hilarity and regularity at those around him, not least towards a young boy with whom he has to seek refuge whilst he recharges and prepares once more for battle. It's to Black's testament that the dialogue manages to both provoke laughter and to add layers of subtext to the characters simultaneously.

   Shane Black's script (co-written with Drew Pearce), is once again full of the types of zingers you'd expect from the mind behind Lethal Weapon and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (the movie responsible for bringing Downey Jr back into the Hollywood fold after his troubles with drugs) and once again boasts the type of character-driven action sequences which make his take on the genre so uniquely "must see". One breath-taking set piece, for example, involves an exploding plane and the in-air recovery of the passengers hurtling towards their death - it's tense and graceful at the same time, culminating in a hilarious crescendo which helps build on the hubris of Stark's character. It's a delightful sequence all round which highlights why Black is considered one of the best genre writers in Hollywood history and, equally, why this movie is as much of a "Shane Black film" as it is an "Iron Man film".
   Kudos too must be given to the star performances in the film. Downey Jr is once again unparalleled, performing at the top of his game, as he tightly wrings the slapstick and the vicious barbs from Black's script, tickling the funny bones throughout whilst also convincing as a wounded lion whose confidence has taken an incredible battering.

   Nearly as impressive too is Ben Kingsley who portrays The Mandarin as though Osama Bin Laden has been filtered through the duel shadows of Skeletor and Mike Myers; a thespian, cartoony take which, at first seems a rather peculiar approach to the role but, due to an audacious plot twist, makes sense as we gain greater insights into the character whose switch from unsettling to comedic is as ingenious as it is welcome. Gwyneth Paltrow is also the film, which is perhaps the kindest thing I can say, boasting a sports bra for much of the running time seemingly just to show the audience that she still exists as an actress in her spare time since succeeding Liz Jones as the internet's most famous "lifestyle" troll. I'm sure there will be some who experience great schadenfreude from watching her get flamed.

    In conclusion - Iron Man 3 is a great, big, daft (how could it not be? It's about costumed "goodies" and "baddies" battling one another) slice of joy which shows that going to the cinema can be sheer, unadulterated fun. It sidesteps the cod-moralising which drags down many of the post-Nolan superhero movies and instead, like last year's Avengers Assemble, provides something much more intelligent; a film populated by three dimensional characters aimed at giving cinema-goers an action packed thrill ride for a little over two hours. It's gleefully retro and, viewing this, I hope we can get a glimpse of action film's future by continuing to remember how much fun we had in the past.

* Not being entirely au fait with the source material, I wasn't entirely sure whether the parallels with Ted Hughes book The Iron Man and it's cinematic adaptation (Brad Bird's The Iron Giant) were at all intentional. It'd be hugely coincidental if not but if any of you graphic novel readers could fill me in on this, that would be wonderful!


  1. I love RDJ as Tony Stark - hoping for another Avengers film soon!

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  2. Ah I need to watch this! I saw the trailer when I went to watch Oblivion and it looks good, only problem is I need to watch 1 and 2 first which is a pain since I don't have the dvds T_T

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    1. Ah that's a shame!
      I think, if I'm honest, you could probably get away with just watching The Avengers first - it'll get you up to speed quite quickly and it means you don't have to watch Iron Man 2 (which wasn't very good!)

    2. That's good then since I've watched The Avengers although can't remember much of the film, watched it on a plane dosed up on anti sickness tablets haha


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