After the alien attack on New York City, (that happened in The Avengers, which you should probably have seen by now) Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has had trouble coping with life. He can’t sleep, he is disconnected from his support network, and he continually questions the meaning of life. But when a major terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) begins setting off mysterious bombs all over the US, Tony arrogantly challenges the villain to a fight, a move that proves disastrous. Cut off from his cache of weaponry as well as his friends, Tony digs deeper into The Mandarin’s backstory and discovers a much more personal history than he would have imagined, leading to an all-out war.
Iron Man 3 is a much, much different movie than you’d expect. The original Iron Man is one of my all-time favorite superhero flicks (possibly behind only The Dark Knight and the aforementioned Avengers) and while Iron Man 2 didn’t come close to living up to its predecessor, it fit the mold and I think works well with the original. This installment was written and directed by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) instead of Jon Favreau and I think that definitely shows throughout most of the film. The tone different, sometimes startlingly so, and as a whole, I would say it is decisively un-comicbook-y. As such, this film may not the best Iron Man movie but it is a remarkably good Shane Black movie. That is to say, it doesn’t really fit in with the previous franchise entries but it is a darn good, highly enjoyable summer action movie with a touch of edge that didn’t exist in the other films.
It should be noted that I’m a huge fan of Black. Lethal Weapon is, in my mind, the second greatest action movie ever (behind Die Hard of course) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the most underrated movies ever. Black leaves his fingerprints ALL OVER Iron Man 3 and while that plays quite well for me, an unabashed fanboy, it may not work for everyone. It took me quite some time to adjust to the change in pace and attitude and even a while after seeing the film to fully digest what I had seen. It’s a movie that will probably play better with multiple viewings than it will the first time around. Robert Downey Jr. is always a treat, of course, but this is unquestionably a showcase piece for him. He and Black work incredibly well together and that shows over and over throughout the course of the film. That said, the side characters felt underutilized and there is a fairly big twist that, in my opinion, comes out a little too soon. Likewise, while the narrative is good (much better than Iron Man 2) and the dialogue is superb, the special effects are a little too grandiose for my taste and the “bad guys with glowing eyes” bit was overly cheesy. None of these issues, however, get in the way of Iron Man 3 becoming a very strong action movie, if a slightly underwhelming superhero flick. Grade: A-