Iron Man 3 (dir. Shane Black, 2013) – Tony Stark returns to face The Mandarin’s formidable threat to tear his world apart.
Shane Black shoots the third Iron Man to thrill, while crafting an unpredictably daring spin on an iconic legend.
With an origins story and a solid villain follow-up in place, the last thing Iron Man needs is another good-prevail-over-evil battle. There is no better time to bring in some new writers for the coveted job to revitalise our favourite Iron hero. Lethal Weapon‘s Shane Black is a brilliant choice for that, having proven his dexterity in balancing heavy action with fitting traces of light comedy.
Teaming up with TV writer Drew Pearce, they pit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) against the intimidating terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). But this is no ordinary fight. The pair takes a gutsy turn and completely reinvents the legend. The big reveal inadvertently shocks some, but might I argue, is a bigger threat than anyone the hero has ever faced (discussion with spoilers on Page 2).
Jon Favreau kicks back on both directing and acting ends for this one, when The Mandarin’s super soldiers leads an attack and lands Happy in the hospital. To add to his troubles, Tony loses touch with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) while Jarvis (Paul Bettany) dies out on him after a crash landing. At the halfway mark, the man in the suit has been stripped of that very suit, his mansion, and dropped into unfamiliar solitude.
What is beneath his usual front of arrogance is vulnerability that we have not seen before. Uncertain if he deserves to stand alongside a demi-god or a super soldier in that New York incident, his headstrong façade shows signs of fading. The Stark Corporation billionaire finds distraction in what he knows best, as he rebuilds his suits and his lost confidence. This is the Iron Man sequel that shows us how Tony is not just a “man in the can”, but a hero with or without his electronic marvels.
Eventually, he reunites with the rebranded Iron Patriot in what can be easily dismissed as a deus ex machina finale. But hell, a grand arsenal of 42 weaponised iron drones in action was a whole lot of fun to watch. It was cool to see the individual pieces magnetically attaching themselves to Tony Stark. Even cooler, to see female characters take a stand as Pepper proves her mettle in combat.
Where there is action, fun is not forgotten. Whether it is the adorably snarky exchanges with young Harley (Ty Simpkins) or the Iron Patriot’s last gag on the old War Machine moniker, Shane Black is in top form. The humour is so precise and definitively his, making this the most entertaining instalment yet (exceeding Hammer drones, Black Widow and Rockwell’s legwork put together). His trinity of Robert Downey Jr., Christmas and witty monologues ensures this will sit well with his legion of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang fans.
A great cast helps, of course. But it has to be said that Marvel needs work on true representation. It was frustrating to see that the scenes with Chinese actors were deleted or made product placement. These extra sequences that Shane Black neither intended for or directed seem to me like a degrading pretence of collaboration.
What this hugely entertaining blockbuster also could do with, is more heavy metal. After all, Iron Man without AC/DC feels somewhat criminal. Nevertheless, this still made for a rock-solid introduction to Marvel’s Phase 2. I know, I’m excited too.