With The Avengers Initiative a resounding success, you would think that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Junior) would be floating on air right about now. On the contrary, the normally self-assured tycoon now wrestles with self-doubt. His personal life is unraveling, and his work no longer provides him with much needed solace.
Alas, he is offered no rest. A mysterious terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has declared war on the US. He begins bombing a number of strategic targets with a strange new weapon. As this unfolds, Scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) suddenly resurfaces. He’s the beneficiary of a bold new technology that has rewritten his genetic code. As the ghosts of his arrogant past converge to bring about his day of reckoning, Tony Stark is brought face to face with his own considerable frailties. Can he contend with both the man in the mirror and his enemies all at once?
Iron Man firmly established Robert Downey Jr. as a box office star. It also provided the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a colorful centerpiece. Iron Man 2 furthered the agenda, but failed to generate the same level of excitement. The Avengers restored Shell Head’s luster and brought the first phase of the MCU to a rousing finish.Now that Marvel’s star attraction is part of a larger whole and saved the entire world from an imminent threat, his further solo adventures run the risk of feeling trite. To clear this particular hurdle, Marvel has enlisted the help of celebrated action scribe Shane Black, who crafts a film that comfortably reconciles his own sensibilities with that of the mythology he’s inherited. However, the process isn’t always smooth.
The first two Iron Man films lacked a distinctive visual style, yet they emanated a high gloss showroom finish. They reveled in the wonderment of Tony’s toy closet. In Iron Man 3, cinematographer John Toll shines a harsh florescent light on the main character and his world, revealing many blemishes. The dulled color palette is shown with the utmost picture clarity, most evident in the assault on Tony’s mountainside manor. It subconsciously clues the viewer in to Shane Black’s true intent: to strip down the hero and expose his personal flaws. This is accomplished with a minimum of style.
Neither Jon Favreau nor Joss Whedon dared allow Tony Stark to join in a fight without donning his armor first. Shane Black shows no such apprehension. Stark engages a good many enemies in civilian garb, often relying on little more than his ingenuity. This will leave many fans disappointed, as it deprives them of what they’ve likely paid to see. By contrast, aficionados of “golden era (1980’s)” action cinema will be delighted. Black prefers good old-fashioned fisticuffs and shootouts to CGI assisted gimmickry. He regards the Iron Man armor as being equivalent to the gadgets and weapons of James Bond. They are but tools of the trade which give the hero a huge advantage. However, they don’t define him.
The screenplay, by Shane Black and Drew Pearce, brims with the trademarks of the former. In this regard, it does its job a little too well. The viewer is beset by nonstop barrages of puns and smart remarks. Many of them work, but en masse, the are overwhelming. The film also takes a good long while to find its equilibrium, with various elements feeling somewhat nebulous until the second act. They eventually coalesce into a considerable whole, but the growing pains are certainly noticeable.
In terms of actual quality, Iron Man 3 is in very close proximity to the original. It’s a slightly more confident film, wearing both its virtues and its flaws on its sleeve. Marvel allowed Shane Black to do things his way. That decision proved to be a wise one, all things considered. He reveals Tony to be a distant cousin to his own creations, particularly Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon) and Joe Hallenbeck (The Last Boy Scout). Tony is a deeply flawed yet resilient hero. The film he headlines emanates a similar quality. I’m certainly game for another outing, hopefully with Shane Black retaining the driver’s seat.
Out of 5
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