Here we have it, the first post Avengers superhero movie. It’s directed by Shane Black, Lethal Weapon writer and actor in the greatest movie ever. There’s a hell of a lot of expectation from Iron Man 3 after The Avengers turned out so well (even if it had had a few flaws). It also follows on from the bloated mess that was Iron Man 2. So have Marvel Studios learned any lessons and have they buffed up old tin head enough to warrant another trip to the cinema? Stick around and all will be revealed in our next exciting chapter also know as ‘the next paragraph!’
Oh good you came back, I was worried I’d be talking to myself. The short answer is yes, this is the best Marvel superhero movie since X-Men 2. It manages to eclipse not just the first two Iron Man films but also The Avengers and sometimes by a massive stretch. But comparing it to these is probably not the best way to review it, it needs to be compared to the films it most closely resembles, the other movies written by Shane Black.
Even frequent cinema goers have a hard time remembering who wrote their favourite comic book movies and there’s a good reason for that. They don’t usually get a chance to put their own stamp on it mostly due to either studio interference or that general feeling of not wanting to screw up a much loved property. It is this that sets Iron Man 3 apart. Black’s (with Drew Pierce) script isn’t a superhero script, it’s a screenplay you’d expect from an 80’s buddy movie. It’s genuinely funny in a clever way unlike The Avengers which thought it was funnier than it was. Tony’s banter with a succession of sidekicks (Jarvis, Rhodey, a small child) always crackles and immediately brings to mind Black’s other hits such as The Last Boy Scout and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (there’s even a scene which is a huge nod to Boy Scout).
Iron Man 3 already has one massive advantage over the second Tony Stark film, it has a proper story this time. The plot sees an evil madman known as ‘The Mandarin’ (I was disappointed he wasn’t a genetically engineered small mutant orange) who puts Tony Stark on his shitlist and goes about being a total dick to him (I might be downplaying the gravitas of his predicament). Tony is still shook up from events in The Avengers where he was momentarily stuck in another dimension with a nuclear missile (we’ve all been there) and is having panic attacks. It’s a plot device that works really well as it adds a vulnerability to the cocky smart ass helping you root for him when things go south. The action scenes are inventive, and best of all, always funny. The number of jokes is staggering without ever detracting from the seriousness of Starks predicament.
Not everything is super though, it’s takes a while to get started, there are scenes that drag a bit (usually when Downey Jr isn’t on screen) and to be honest the plot falls apart if you think about it too much. There are a couple of characters that could probably be cut without you noticing and a the climax could be a bit tighter.
But these are small problems and the essence of the plot is really good even if the details aren’t. At the point you’re thinking ‘not another America – good, foreigners- bad patriotic love fest’, Iron Man 3 cleverly subverts this to ask questions about the military industrial complex and the use of larger than life baddies to control the populace. That these plot points are lost in an overcomplicated story is slightly disappointing.
Which brings me on to Iron Man 3’s greatest triumph – surprise. That’s a word that doesn’t get much use when talking about comic book movies but its a word that sums up IM3 perfectly. It takes massive risks which could easily have backfired if it wasn’t for the great script and likeable characters. It won’t be the film you’re expecting and it does a fantastic job of subverting (there’s that word again) the superhero genre. Its basically a big, ballsy, funny, action movie that just happens to have a hi-tech robotic suit of armour in it. It’s not perfect but its guaranteed to put a smile on your face even if you’ve become jaded by costumed heroes. I’ve already decided to name my first child Mark 42. Go see the film.