The first sequel to last year’s mega blockbuster The Avengers is finally here with Iron Man 3. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley, this film follows Tony Stark as he tries to come to terms with his life after the events of The Avengers, while a new threat targets what he cares about most. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
For the record, Iron Man is my favourite Avenger. I really enjoy is arrogant but witty attitude, but more importantly find it interesting how a weapons manufacturer could become a superhero. This is now Iron Man’s fourth movie and the way the character has grown and changed is fascinating and a strength of the entire Marvel Universe.
At the end of The Avengers, Tony comes very close to death when he flies a missile into a space portal. So naturally his character is traumatized. That is how we find Tony in this movie, struggling with reality. He still is witty and bold, but now he doesn’t sleep and spends all of his time tinkering. This is very different from the Tony of the first film but fits the character after all of the bad things he has seen.
But a superhero isn’t a superhero without an enemy and in this movie, that role is played by both Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce. Kingsley plays The Mandarin, who in the comics is Iron Man’s top enemy. Pearce plays Aldrich Killian, a scientist who Tony blows off in 1999 and who now has created the Extremis technology that gives people powerful heat powers. Both actors give very good performances and their story is very interesting. But The Mandarin is greatly underused compared to Killian, even though he is a more interesting character.
It is very hard to keep a character interesting and to give him new challenges after the many attacks someone like Iron Man has faced over the past seven years, but director Shane Black finds a way to do so. He takes everything Jon Favreau built in the first two (and brings Favreau back as Happy Hogan) and builds on it. The relationships are still there, the house looks the same and everyone from the cast is back.
But Black does inject his own style into the film that are for the better. For one thing, the entire film is superimposed upon the Christmas season, in the same way as Die Hard. This makes for some great visual cues in the background, where there are fire humans fighting robot suits while a huge Christmas tree sits in the background.
There are also a lot of action scenes with Tony out of the suits that work really well. I especially enjoyed seeing him in a spy role, climbing walls and sneaking around in street clothes and with cheaply made weapons. Stark was an acting detective, not just a guy in a robot suit, and it was really cool to see.
But the action with the suits is still really cool. And I mean suits plural. Tony’s man suit in this one is the Mach 42, but by the end he has a whole army of suits controlled by his computer, Jarvis. At times it gets confusing with so many suits flying around, but like The Avengers, there are so many little moments that offset that complaint. The many ways that the Extremis army gets blown up by the Iron Men army are all cool, fast and exciting.
The earlier action scenes are well done too. There is a big battle on Air-Force One, which eventually sees Iron Man catching 13 people as they fall from the sky. This is one of the coolest scenes I’ve ever seen in a Marvel movie and it is really cool to see them continue to raise the bar for intense action in the series.
The women of the movie play important roles, but disappear for long periods of time and are treated as secondary characters. Rebecca Hall plays Maya Hansen, who sleeps with Tony in 1999 but who’s motives in 2013 are less clear. She only appears in a handful of scenes and although her character moves the plot along, it is less from her actions and more from how she connects Tony and Killian. I really wish Hall would have gotten more screen time because she is a talented actor who deserves a chance in a franchise like this.
Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is just as important to the Iron Man franchise as Tony is and her character grows leaps and bounds here, but still remains the damsel in distress. The awesome banter between Paltrow and Downey that was briefly seen in The Avengers is back here for most of the first half. But then they are separated for a large portion of the film. Potts finally gets in on the action, awkwardly wearing a suit early. This is easily Paltrow’s best performance as Potts so far.
Tony’s relationship with Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes also plays a big part in this movie, even though he doesn’t really fight in his own armor. Rohdes’s War Machine armor gets repainted and renamed to Iron Patriot and becomes the body guard for the US president, but all of Rhodes’ actual action scenes see him out of the armor. The buddy tandem between Downey and Cheadle is great, and I really enjoyed their snappy dialogue (which as you could probably tell by now, Downey is really good at). Early on, you also get to see them as just friends, eating at some random restaurant and genuinely caring for each others well being. There are rumors for Iron Patriot to appear in The Avengers 2 and I think Cheadle could definitely fit in with that cast and add another element to the army of heroes.
This is Downey’s movie though and he goes full speed from beginning to end. If the actor is tired of playing Tony Stark, he didn’t show it. This is the role that will define Downey’s career and he does everything he can to make it work. As I’ve said many times in this review, his fast paced dialogue and wit is extremely entertaining and funny. And it is very refreshing to see some dramatic scenes where Tony can’t sleep and is feeling traumatized from his near death experience. The action without the suits are well done and when he is not fighting, Downey is still very animated and engaged in all of his scenes. It is an amazing performance and a big part of why I enjoyed the film.
On a side note, Ty Simpkins and Downey have some amazing scenes. The kid can really hold his own with the star actor and is one to watch in the coming years.
Iron Man 3 is a great sequel to an already great franchise. Sure Iron Man 2 isn’t the best film, but the way the character has grown over his four films is amazing to see here. Marvel knows all of their movies will be big hits, but they still go all out to make them strong action movies that can hold their own in the massive franchise. There are big moments in the film that will push the franchise forward but still ends in a way that gives the character closure. Downey’s contract expires after The Avengers 2 and if he doesn’t sign on for more, the Iron Man trilogy ends the way it should have.