WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FILMS IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2 AND AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Kicking off the summer blockbuster season, and Marvel’s “Phase Two” of films, Iron Man 3 is set directly after the events of the Avengers. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is having difficulty coming to terms with a world now filled with gods and aliens, suffering from PTSD, insomnia and panic attacks. His life is then made worse by the aggressive and ethnically ambiguous terrorist, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, Schindler’s List), and his army of Terminator-esque agents fuelled by the regenerative Extremis serum.
Despite it being the darkest of the Iron Man films, the third installment still maintains everything that makes the character so popular. Series regulars Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) and Don Cheadle (Rhodey) make welcome returns, and Downey Jr. is still is the perfect casting for the character, in this case balancing his character’s emotional damage with razor sharp wit. Iron Man 3 spends a lot of the time with Tony Stark out of the suit, but still is full of action, humour and one-liners. This is all the more noticeable thanks to the new director Shane Black. Most famous for scripting the Lethal Weapon series, and directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, his direction shows through. At times, it feels like a buddy cop film, especially between Iron Man and Rhodey (the newly rebranded Iron Patriot). You can also tell that Black (who also wrote the script) pushed the dialogue to the limits with what he could get away with. It never feel vulgar or out of place, and it was pleasantly surprising to hear Stark come out with lines such as “Dad’s leave, no need to be a pussy about it”.
But the newer cast additions don’t fare as well. Ben Kingsley gives a scene-stealing and multi-layered performance, but he doesn’t have anywhere near enough screen time as I thought he would. This is because of a mid-film plot twist that I didn’t mind, but will definitely aggravate die-hard comic fans. It was a bold move, but I don’t know if it will pay off. Rebecca Hall’s (The Town, The Prestige) character of Maya Hansen felt a little irrelevant, and Guy Pearce (Memento, The Time Machine) was a solid, yet unremarkable evil scientist, Aldrich Killian.
Iron Man 3 is definitely better than the second, but it just falls short of capturing the lightning-in-a-bottle that was the first one. It has action, humour and a coherent plot, but it suffers from a slow start and some underdeveloped characters. If it is Tony Stark’s final solo film, it’s a decent send-off.