Iron Man 3
Directed by Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyenth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau
This is the Iron Man movie we’ve been waiting for.
This is the movie I wanted the first film to be. This is the movie the second film was nowhere near being. It’s the movie Jon Favreau, for all the good things he brought to the franchise, couldn’t make. While his entries get the character of Tony Stark, they were severely lackluster when it came to the action sequences. Shane Black builds upon Favreau’s foundations, and then makes a more stable, flashier looking house.
Black’s no stranger to the action genre, and a lot of his trademarks are present. He’s adapted his dialogue very admirably for a more family friendly audience, without losing some of his signature hallmarks. One of the best contribution Black makes is his characterization of The Mandarin. Finally, the franchise has a villain that feels like a legitimate threat. The Mandarin is ruthless, vile, and played to perfection by Sir Ben Kingsley. If the film has a flaw, it happens in the final moments of Kingsley’s screentime, but even then, it’s not enough to undo the presentation and terror his The Mandarin projects.
The secondary villain, Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, also holds his own as a legitimate threat, and never falls into the goofy, snobbish attitude that Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer transmitted. Killian isn’t there to make jokes as much as he is to make Stark”s life a living hell. Pearce nails this, never feeling too corny or (for lack of a better word,) lame.
Everything else that’s worked about this series is in tact, and it’s arguable that Robert Downey, Jr. has never been better as Tony Stark. Downey’s been the arc reactor that makes these movies shine, and his light is radiant in this installment. Stark feels like he has more to do here other than crack jokes and show off, and Downey brings a more humanizing level to Stark.
Gwyenth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is given more to do here, and she finally feels comfortable in the role. Paltrow’s always had terrific chemistry with Downey, yet here they’re firing on all cylinders. In a more extensive role, Don Cheadle gets much more to do here, playing the sidekick role. As James Rhodes has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters, it was a pure joy to watch him get moments to shine here. Cheadle plays off Downey well, and the two never turn their relationship into a macho e macho contest. They feel like partners, and work splendidly together. Special note should be given to Shane Black for making the Mark 42 armor something of a character in its own right, as it gets one of the best gags in the film.
Yet the biggest praise Shane Black deserves for this movie, is the action. When the lead character of the film builds military weapons and has a suit that’s a walking weapon, the action needs to be spectacular. Jon Favreau was not that director, even if some of his sequences were fun. Iron Man 3‘s worst action sequence runs circles around the indy car battle in Iron Man 2 (Favreau’s best action scene.) Each scene builds upon the one that came before it, and Black escalates the spectacle. The infamous plane rescue sequence alone is a contender for best action scene of the year.
A director of Shane Black’s caliber is what this franchise needed. Finally, we get an Iron Man film were the action beats are just as strong as the character interactions. Iron Man 3 isn’t perfect, but it does too much right for its flaws to weigh it down. In a way, it feels like a classic blockbuster that’s been missing from Hollywood; an action film that just goes for it, regardless of logic. Shane Black’s been given an enormous playground to explore; one that’s going to be hard to imagine without him from here on out.