Sunday 28 April 2013

Iron Man 3 Review - Avengers Disassemble

*This review is largely spoiler free, and most plot-details mentioned are evident in the trailers, but read cautiously if you haven’t seen the film yet*

Marvel Studios are absolutely golden right now. Iron Man was big, Iron Man 2 was bigger (The Incredible Hulk, not so much), Captain America and Thor were no slouches either; but I don't think even Marvel knew how huge The Avengers was going to be. So coming on the back of that is a pretty unenviable task, yet one Iron Man 3 manages to accomplish with vigour, by fully addressing the events of last year's blockbuster smash and pondering "what next?". Although Iron Man 3 very loosely resembles its trailers - beyond a few key set pieces - it is nonetheless a fully enjoyable film.

Where Iron Man got Tony Stark into the suit, and Iron Man 2 had him wandering around in it for the whole film, Iron Man 3 yanks him out, and has him use his real superpower - his brain. I'll stay only mildly spoiler-y, but if you haven't seen the film yet and want to go into it completely fresh, a) why are you reading reviews?, and b) stop reading this one now.

As you can see in the trailers, Stark is suffering tremendously after the battle of New York that took place in The Avengers, having terrifying flashbacks that bring him out in an anxious sweat; he can't sleep, and he's throwing himself into creating suit after suit after suit (at the end of Iron Man 2, he was up to Mark 7. At the start of 3, he's just finished Mark 42). That sense of fear, a sense of incomprehension, is the emotional anchor for the film.

After a series of terrorist attacks, for which Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin is taking credit, our shiny-suited hero issues a challenge to the iconic supervillain: here's my address, come and fight me. Unfortunately, The Mandarin decides to do just that, launching the full-on beach house assault seen in the trailers - and that's certainly the most awe-inspiring and gripping scene in the movie. That though, and Tony's underlying anxiety and fear, are as dark as the film goes.

The trailers seem to make Iron Man 3 seem a much darker film, provoking cries of "Marvel are trying to piggy-back The Dark Knight", with many citing the film as reactionary to the success of the Bourne films, Casino Royale, et al. But the reality, what we see unfold for two and a half hours, is very, very far away from that. There are certainly dark aspects to the film, but, overall, Iron Man 3 is actually funny, bitingly sarcastic and rather light-hearted.

The film is, if anything, the least serious of the three Iron Man films and is packed to the brim with hilarious self-satire, cutting one-liners and some just plain goofy humour. There is natural, character-driven comedy, - including Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan, Stark Industries's new head of security, terrifying all the staff by launching a crusade against anyone not wearing their security badge - there are a lot of pun-tastic one-liners from Stark (although some questionable language choices: "pussy" and "spaz", in particular) and one crown jewel of comedy that is sure to make comic book fans everywhere yearn for the dismembered head of Shane Black.

And while the comedy is great, it underwhelms the drama of the film. There are a lot of big, climactic battles and tense, dramatic moments, but the comedy undercuts the dramatic potential of the film; it felt as though Iron Man 3 was going into Joker/The Dark Knight territory, but it soon becomes evident that that's not the plan at all - if you've not seen the film, I shan't give the game away; if you have, then you'll know what I'm referring to when I say 'Trevor'. Funny though 'Trevor' was, it took something away from the film. The film doesn't take itself too seriously, but it takes itself so un-seriously at times, that it's hard for anyone else to take it seriously either.

On the plus side though, Iron Man 3 does have a very interesting story; it had more of an espionage feel to it than the previous fully-suited-up films - several times it seemed as though Daniel Craig was about to waltz on screen wielding a Walther. It also dipped into buddy comedy/cop-movie territory in places with some of Tony and Rhodey's interactions and teamwork, involving them running around, in - rather than metal mechs - light-coloured polo shirts, waving guns around. In fact, the coolest parts of Iron Man 3 take place outside of any mechanical suits. Part and parcel with that is the film's aforementioned inherent sense of comedy; director Shane Black's knack for delivering witty, sarcastic one-liners mid-scene is in full force, and it's very evident that this is a film by the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon. A very good description of the film is part-Bond, part-Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

On the subject of Shane Black, whether or not people think the film's constant zany, sardonic humour is a pro or a con, you simply can't argue with his direction. The film moves along at a brisk, entertaining pace, never dawdling or stammering, yet still managing to drive great character development more than either of the previous Iron Man films. It's devilishly funny and the story is well told. The cinematography, the camera shots and the editing are all top-notch, recalling an 80s B-movie - in the best possible way. Black also co-wrote the film with Drew Pearce, and the two have concocted arguably the most sharp and entertaining superhero script to date.

What Black also does very well is direct Robert Downey, Jr.. The actor hardly needed help playing the tin-suited superhero - Downey, Jr. is Iron Man, he has the sardonic humour, the idiosyncratic confidence and underlying morality down to an absolute tee - but Black is only happy to shine things up even more, with a seemingly tailor-made film. If this is, as he seems to be indicating in interviews, Downey, Jr.'s last Iron Man film, then it's certainly a high note to go out on, as Tony Stark - the man, not the superhero - is at his most human, and his most impressive, in Iron Man 3.

Guy Pearce plays Alrdich Killian, pioneer/weaponiser of the Extremis virus and is suitably creepy and menacing, yet exuding charisma (highlighting once again that he would play The Riddler to perfection). Extremis, though, is also the most annoying problem with the film: mainly, it makes everyone exposed to it ridiculously overpowered. I mean, it's nice to finally have villains who can go toe-to-toe with Stark without having to either possess an army or don a modified Iron Man suit themselves, but there are only so many times you can tolerate someone getting blown up, shot in the face and beaten down on, only to watch them heal, bounce back up and continue the fight.

The last half hour got a little Transformers-esque and explosion-y. And that would have derailed a lesser film (Iron Man 2, for example), but the storm of Iron Man suits that you see in the trailer are far more compelling to watch than their evil, Rourke-controlled counterparts in 2. That, and the intercut one-liners keep the adrenaline-packed finale well balanced and on target.

The follow-up to the climactic finale - that is to say, the end of the film - was immensely well handled leaving the audience with a lot of questions, as the first part of the stage is set for The Avengers 2. Despite how baggy the last half hour does get, it certainly looks impressive, thanks to the hard work of the hundreds upon hundreds of VFX artists (hence why the credits go on for so bloody long), without whom, Marvel wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on. The 3D, however, was largely ineffectual.

What follows the end of the film is very impressive too, as there are some nifty and inherently comic-y credits, showcasing moments from the trilogy and highlights from the film. Following that, there's a fun post-credits scene; it's more of a gag than previous Marvel post-credit sequences, not particularly exciting or teasery, but it nicely bookends the film - and indeed the trilogy.

So, Iron Man 3 is thrilling, stylishly directed, well acted, well paced and very funny - too funny, in fact. While it isn't the powerful series re-definer that people were perhaps hoping for, it is an entirely enjoyable blockbuster and a seemingly nice end to to the trilogy.



  1. T spoiler alert stop reading if don't want spoilers. The only thing i didn't like about it was when he gave his home address out he seemed like the arrogant Tony stark in Ironman 2

  2. Valid point. Although at least it felt as though he had ample reason here - he was pissed, coming off a massive victory in The Avengers, and raring to fight; whereas in 2 he was just a douche.

  3. Benjamin Boekelaar30 April 2013 at 08:17

    Yes! Thank you, you've just made all the points I've been making to other people. However I think I may have liked the film slightly more then you, but still a great review.

    It felt like an 80's action film, rolled in with the comics and topped off with all the humour that was found in the Avengers. I've seen it twice and the whole 'Trevor' thing actually works better the second time around and you're able to focus on other aspects of the movie.

  4. Don't get me wrong, I did like the film, and if I hadn't seen any of the trailers, I would have probably liked it a lot more. It's just... I was expecting an entirely different film. It's still by no stretch a bad film though.

    I'm glad you liked it!