REVIEW: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Theatrical Release Poster – Marvel Studios – Disney

The following is a review of Iron Man 3, a Shane Black film. This review was written in early 2016.

Iron Man 3 might be the most controversial film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most comic book fans aren’t all that pleased with the film, to say the least, but most critics enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t really say that any crowd really loves the film, though. Now, why is that? Well, let’s just say that the marketing hurt the film, and the vision of the script wasn’t what fans were expecting. 

Iron Man 3 is a story about anxiety and PTSD, and how Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) handles the fact that we aren’t alone in the universe. Tony feels powerless, and during this personal crisis we are treated to the introduction of the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) – a terrorist who is behind a string of bombings, including one that injured Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau).

The Mandarin made it personal, and Tony basically challenges him to a fight, which doesn’t turn out to be the smartest thing to do. But something’s off about the Mandarin, and it turns out that his sudden arrival may be linked to Tony’s past.

“We create our own demons.” – Tony Stark.

Unlike the first two Iron Man-films, Iron Man 3 wasn’t directed by Jon Favreau, but by someone very different. Iron Man 3‘s director/co-writer, Shane Black, has this very specific tone in his films, a tone that people had thought would fit perfectly into the world of Tony Stark.

To put it simply, while his tone definitely worked for Tony Stark, one could argue that Iron Man 3 isn’t really an Iron Man-film, though. The writer of the first two Lethal Weapon-films made a pretty good action-comedy film with Iron Man 3, but I think you could make the argument that this film forgot to be a superhero film.

For better or worse, Iron Man 3 is a Shane Black film. It is set at christmas (I think someone forgot to tell Shane Black that the film was supposed to be released in May), it’s got the classic 1980s action film-feel, and there’s a kidnapping. If you know what to expect from Shane Black, then you can have a lot of fun with this film, which I definitely did.

It almost feels redundant to state that Robert Downey, Jr. does a good job in this film. Downey, Jr. in an Iron Man-movie made by Shane Black – obviously, Downey is great. Now, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts plays a big part in the film, and even gets to do some cool action things, but it really sucks that, for most of the film, the character is downgraded to the damsel-in-distress role. But, as always, Paltrow and Downey have great romantic chemistry.

I’ll mention Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian in the spoiler-section, but let’s talk about the rest of the supporting characters first. I don’t have a lot to say about War Machine, other than the fact that I really liked Don Cheadle in this movie, he has really fun dialogue to work with here. Now, this film introduced us to Maya Hansen (played by Rebecca Hall), and I thought that character worked well. Hall is a great actress, and I wish she played a bigger part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When I saw this film for the first time, I remember that I really didn’t like that Tony was teaming up with this kid, Harley, for a significant part of the film. But when I rewatched it, I really liked their interactions much more. Ty Simpkins’s character is sort of a sidekick to Tony, and I liked seeing Tony mentor Harley – even if his arrogance masked his intentions from time to time.

Now, for the rest of the review, I’ll be talking about the ending and the twist, so if you want to stay spoiler free, then you should probably wait to watch the film before reading anymore. Still there? Good. Let’s get to the very controversial parts of the film.

The big twist in the film was definitely hit-or-miss. I totally understand that other comic book fans wanted to see the classic Mandarin, but I actually really liked the twist. Sure, I would have loved to see Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin that the trailers showed, but I loved how fun the twist is – it’s almost disarming.

I will say that I thought the whole ‘Aldrich Killian is the Mandarin’-thing didn’t work out so well, and Killian wasn’t a very good villain. Guy Pearce did fine, but he was given a really poor and forgettable villain. The Mandarin is a missed opportunity, but the twist was fun.

The other really controversial and confusing thing was the very ending and the voice-over. The clean-slate protocol was a new beginning for Tony, but was widely interpreted as Tony retiring. And don’t get me wrong, I see why you would think that, but that’s not what I got out of the ending.

Throughout the film you had seen Tony as this very vulnerable guy who questioned whether or not he was a hero. For me, that harkened back to the famous scene on the helicarrier in Marvel’s The Avengers where Steve Rogers says: “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” Now, Tony’s response was disarming, but this film really answered the question.

Tony Stark really was the ‘mechanic’ throughout the film, and he got to show that he is a hero even when he isn’t wearing the suit. Remember the scene where Harley first finds him? To the kid, the suit is Iron Man – but this film proved that it is all about the guy who controls it. Tony Stark is Iron Man. Tony Stark is a hero. And, ultimately, this film really worked for me.

8 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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