Iron Man 3

FILM REVIEW

Iron Man 3 is the first film of Marvel’s Phase 2, which carries on from the gigantic blockbuster The Avengers. And what an impressive start it is.

Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man, is still shaken from the events that took place in The Avengers. Worried for the safety of his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and knowing that greater threats lie in outer space, Tony is unable to sleep and works 24/7 on perfecting his Iron Man armour. However, a new and more personal threat appears in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey), a terrorist who wants to teach America and Tony Stark a lesson.

It still blows my mind that Marvel has taken the necessary steps to literally create a universe within their films. Of course, this all started with Sam Jackson’s cameo as Nick Fury in the post-credit scene of the first Iron Man, and since then the universe has expanded to include an impressive roster of Marvel’s mightiest and even lesser-known heroes.

Since nearly every man and his dog saw The Avengers last year, making it the highest grossing film of all time, Marvel did the smart thing of making Iron Man 3 a follow-up to The Avengers instead of the successor to Iron Man 2. You could basically just watch the first Iron Man film and The Avengers to get up to speed with what’s happening here.

The biggest change for this movie however, is they have replaced director Jon Favreau with Shane Black. This immediately gave me a nerd erection when I heard the news. Black wrote the entire Lethal Weapon series and had his directorial debut in 2005 with Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang – probably the most intelligent and well-written movie of the last twenty years.

Black’s personal stamp on the franchise is evident from the opening credits. IM3 opens with a voiceover from RDJ, explaining that the events within the film all stem from something that happened long ago – which is all very similar to beginning of Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang.

The dialogue is much snappier thanks to Black’s involvement, as he knows exactly how to write for RDJ’s personality – this is most evident in the playful exchanges between Stark and a random kid (who apparently was called personally by RDJ to tell him he got the role).

The casting RDJ as Tony Stark/Iron Man is quite possibly the greatest casting choice/marketing effort of all time – think about it. Not only did Iron Man kick-start the entire Marvel Studios enterprise, but reinvigorated RDJ’s career and launched a relatively unknown superhero into the leagues of Batman and Superman.

And because of this, both RDJ and his fictitious alter-ego have been able to spread their (publicity/marketing) wings and become a household name. What’s scary is that it’s becoming very hard to separate where one personality stops and the other begin – but that’s also the fun of it.

The plot itself will catch even the biggest comic fans off-guard – and personally, I don’t think anyone will be upset. The Extremis plot, which is based on a series of Iron Man comics, is used as the foundation for the film’s events but is altered to suit the characters within the film universe.

In fact, I was really surprised that Black was given permission to alter the comic book origins so much. This is why the Marvel films are so exciting, because even though they have so much material to work with, even the biggest comic fans will never know the on-screen fate of their favourite characters.

Rebecca Hall was a great casting choice, as the smart, confident, female-equivalent of Tony Stark. It’s a shame that she didn’t get a bigger role, but most of that screen time was dedicated to Paltrow.

Paltrow is OK in this. At the time of the first film, I was so impressed that she even signed on for such a little known character. This time, you could say it all revolves around her character or at least the love triangle between Tony, Pepper and the Iron Man suits – but I still think it’s weird they paid so much attention to the least interesting character/actor from the entire series.

Don Cheadle also returns to the role of James Rhodes/War Machine (who was played by Terrence Howard in the first film), but it’s never really explained why War Machine wasn’t helping The Avengers in New York. I do like the fact that Rhodes is the only one playing a superhero role throughout the entire film, chasing down bad guys and protecting the President – all while Tony is sorting out his life and starting personal vendettas.

But the trump cards in terms of casting, comes with the inclusion of both Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce – who are both fantastic. Kingsley’s portrayal of The Mandarin is completely different to the character in the comics, and I can’t wait to see how comic book fanatics react. And while Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian is set up to be an integral part of the plot from the initial flashback, it’s not until much later that we find out how it’s all connected.

Let’s talk Easter Eggs. One of the best things about Marvel films is that each one of them includes cameos and references to other characters within the universe. Apart from mentioning Thor and The Avengers a few times, and the involvement of the oil company Roxxon (who were responsible for the death of Stark’s parents in one of the comics), there’s really not much to work with. I guess this makes sense, as this film is supposed to be a personal journey for Tony Stark and not a threat to the Marvel universe – otherwise, why wouldn’t he just call up Hulk or Captain America to lend a hand?

For all the comic fans out there – if you are expecting to see cameos from Star Lord, Spider-man, Ant Man or Black Panther then you will be disappointed. Before seeing this movie, I was dead-set that Stephanie Szostak would be revealed as The Wasp… she doesn’t.

All in all, this is an incredible feat. Not only did Marvel’s producer Kevin Feige, Shane Black and RDJ live up to the hype of The Avengers, but they have a strong movie that can stand alone in the series. It feels distant to the first two Iron Man films because it is much darker and more personal for the characters involved, and that’s what it needed to be.

But most importantly, the events and outcomes of this film will have a huge impact on the future of Marvel films. Perhaps not so much in the case of the Thor and Captain America sequels, but it will definitely affect the premise for The Avengers 2 (due in 2015).

Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Rating: 4/5