Iron Man 3 (****)
Directed by Shane Black
Running time: 130 Minutes
Starring Robert Downey, Jr. Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle and Sir Ben Kingsley
(Belfast Odeon 25/04/2013)
NO WONDER Robert Downey, Jr’s character Tony Stark is suffering from anxiety attacks, he’s starring in a film that isn’t just kicking off this year’s summer blockbuster season but it’s also carrying the weight of expectation left from last year’s hugely successful Avengers Assemble movie. But he shouldn’t worry because everything onscreen has been handled rather competently with the final product delivering a solid superhero feature.
Including his cameo appearances this is now the fifth time that Downey, Jr. has portrayed Stark onscreen and he’s grown into the role with relative ease and clearly having a ball. With Shane Black taking over the directorial helm from Josh Favreau, he brings a much-needed freshness to the feature and a welcome snappiness back to the film’s screenplay.
Iron Man 2 was a real disappointment that felt too lumbered down by the need to kick-start Marvel’s Avengers project rather than trying to tell its own story. But this instalment feels completely different, while it does attempt to explore some of the consequences left from last year’s Avengers feature, it does feel much more like a standalone Iron Man story than its predecessor, recapturing the magic of the 2008 original.
The film sees Stark unable to sleep and suffering from severe anxiety attacks, haunted by his part in saving New York City. Much to the concern of his friends, colleagues and more importantly his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) he has become increasingly preoccupied with building more and more variations of his original Iron Man suit, in trying to keep his mind from dwelling on his own problems.
Cleverly the film picks up on a plot strand that predates even the original feature, with Stark facing the backlash of Guy Pearce’s vengeful character Aldrich Killian, who is mysteriously involved with the beautiful scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and the shadowy character of The Mandarin, played by Sir Ben Kingsley.
Despite featuring so many characters, both old and new, Black handles everything onscreen with relative ease, with a screenplay that is both witty and light-hearted and manages to give everyone just enough screen-time. Stand out moments include a gripping sequence on-board Air Force One and the films over the top climatic showdown between Stark and Killian.
The screenplay features some wonderfully snappy interchanges between the characters, particularly between Stark and Don Cheadle’s character Colonel James Rhodes, reminiscent of Black’s previous directorial effort, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Much like last year’s The Dark Knight Rises feature, fans might be surprised at just how little they see Downey, Jr. flying around as his superhero alter ego, It’s a brave move that deals more with Stark’s psyche than Iron Man. Things have changed over the course of the series for our protagonist, he’s no longer the womanising playboy he once was, now in a committed relationship and questioning what role Iron Man plays within his life.
From the moment Eiffel 65’s track Blue, blasts over the film’s opening credits, viewers will know they are in for a light-hearted viewing experience, this is a feature that clearly embraces its comic book heritage, but it’s also unafraid to toy with fan’s preconceptions.
Particularly in relation to Kingsley’s character The Mandarin, The British actor is in his element playing the mysterious terrorist leader, hamming it up delightfully. His character is a clever reflection upon today’s 24 hour news portrayal of terrorist leaders, such as Osama bin Laden. It’s an inventive twist on the original character, who was Stark’s arch-nemesis in the comics, but the move will most likely divide fans.
The film isn’t perfect, it’s a little baggy and could have done with a more ruthless edit to cut down about 15-20 minutes from its runtime, and its twists don’t quite get the huge payoff the filmmakers would have maybe hoped for.
But that said it’s still a hugely enjoyable movie with more than enough on display to fully justify the price of viewer’s cinema ticket. It feels much more like a fitting epilogue to last year’s Avengers feature, than a kick-starter for Marvel’s Phase 2 grand cinematic scheme.
By William McClean