Iron Man 3 Review
Imagine a superhero called Iron Man, and thoughts hurdle towards some guy with metal instead of flesh, fastened in a tight shirt without crinkles. It’s actually less impressive: a human inside a red shell. Robert Downey Jr lifted (pun intended) the character through sardonic one-liners and the swagger of a Hollywood star who’s experienced Tony Stark’s fame since the pre-internet era. His third turn in the suit (and fourth, including The Avengers) needs a shakeup, and Marvel takes that risk with Shane Black. The Iron Man appeal lies in dialogue that’s half over-written, half improvised; a style appropriate for comic book capers and genre pastiches. That explains the Shane Black gamble –his IMDb page states only one other film as director, but that was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, an entertainingly self-aware nod to Raymond Chandler. Black’s new approach injects an invigorating spark into a series that already looked stale when Jon Favreau ran out of ideas for Iron Man 2. With a Spider-Man 3 disaster averted, Black opens with ramshackle conversations and offbeat humour. Now and then, television images suggest a terrorist threat, with broadcasted shots a bit too “real” to have featured in the earlier films. The new villain, the Mandarin, was advertised as the Joker played by Sir Ben Kingsley. The trailer even features Kingsley sinisterly whispering, “You don’t know who I am.” In other words, he’s season 5 on the Walter White scale. Without spoiling anything, it’s a superhero enemy far more memorable than Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 and whoever was in the first one. (Yes, I am suggesting Kingsley is more memorable than someone I can’t remember.) Surprisingly, with a non-action director taking on an action film, you don’t learn much about character motivations beyond Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle return in their supporting roles, with Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce as new additions, yet screen time is minimal. One choice line of exposition is: “We have to save the president or Pepper.” It isn’t so much a plot reminder, but a way of removing Paltrow’s presumably binned scenes. The character imbalance is rooted in frequent set-pieces tying Iron Man 3 together, rather than vice-versa. Fast-paced and increasingly inventive, the action sequences rocket in a manner reminiscent of those worm things crawling from the sky in The Avengers. When the narrative wriggles without direction, it doesn’t matter because five minutes later Downey Jr switches on the TV to see live coverage of a missile seconds from away him. (If I was the screenwriter, I would have made some sort of “breaking news” pun. I’ll just wait to see if I’m hired for Iron Man 4.) I would recommend avoiding the 3D, which was barely noticeable; it didn’t detract, but that’s hardly an endorsement. The 3D did manage to accentuate the product placement, from Kingsley opening a can of Budweiser in slow motion, to the frequency of mobile phones displaying camera functions. In a televised speech, the President of America even brandishes what phone he uses, like the time George Bush declared war on Iraq while accidentally deleting his top score on Snake. When Downey Jr used a paper map for directions, I was taken aback – even I use my phone for that. At least there’s nothing as incongruous as Iron Man 2 when he escapes torture and demands a Burger King. Maybe I can pay him to advertise this blog in Iron Man 5. Rather than playing to strengths, Iron Man 3 avoids playing to weaknesses. The schmaltz is lower than anticipated, and several spanners (made of iron) are used for genuinely surprising twists – the preview screening had journalists repeatedly gasping. It doesn’t panic with too many ideas (like Spider-Man 3) and doesn’t take itself too seriously with an ambitious, convoluted storyline (like The Dark Knight Rises). It may not be a subversive masterpiece, but it’s unexpectedly solid, iron fun – plus a summer blockbuster set at Christmas for no real reason.