Iron Man 3: Movie Review
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale
Director: Shane Black
"We create our own demons."
So goes the very first line of this threequel, opening to massive expectations and no doubt, box office following Iron Man's last triumphant outing as part of the superhero powerhouse which was The Avengers.
Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as billionaire Tony Stark - who, this time around, is suffering a little from PTSD following the events at the end of the alien Chitauri invasion masterminded by Loki. Well, you'd expect that from someone who escaped from a wormhole with a nuke in tow...
Facing a distinct lack of sleep, Stark has been distancing himself from the love of his life Pepper Potts (Paltrow), who's working hard at Stark Industries and is choosing to dwell on building other Iron Man suits within his basement.
But when bearded terrorist The Mandarin strikes, taking down everything Tony Stark holds dear, Stark has no choice but to go back to basics to try and save the day...
Iron Man 3 is not what you would expect in terms of blockbuster outing.
Sure, Shane Black's fashioned some killer crowd-pleasing, large exploding moments of spectacle but the overall feel of this flick is somewhat of a downer, darker and slightly dour affair - despite moments of humour throughout this character piece.
Stark is prone to panic and anxiety attacks - and it gives Downey Jr a new facet to play with onscreen as well as humanising the smarmy, egotistical philanthropist. But it also gives depth of vulnerability and a degree of heartbreak to his distancing himself from Potts (their relationship being the pulsing heart of this latest film) as it all plays out. Downey Jr is never anything less than eminently watchable as it unfolds, whether it's raging anger when laying down a challenge to Mandarin and chasing after the bearded terrorist (bin Laden allegories, anyone?) or realising how mortal he is post-Avengers' incidents.
Likewise, Ben Kingsley's Mandarin character is a fabulous addition to the pantheon of Marvel baddies. To say too much about this bearded Bin Laden-esque terrorist, with his cyber-hacking broadcasts is to give too much away from the film. But he adds a menace which is befitting and the equal of Stark's theatricality as he exacts his diabolical plots. Guy Pearce brings a level of nastiness and rejected smarm as Aldrich Killian, but Rebecca Hall is frankly wasted in a role, which amounts to little more than an extended cameo. Don Cheadle gets a Lethal Weapon-esque team up with Stark toward the end of the film as Iron Patriot falls into trouble.
Despite there being plenty of unexpected moments, twists and turns, and some eye-catching action sequences, there's a horrendously saggy middle piece which sees Stark paired off with a kid and a woodshed-cum-factory as he tries to piece together what's happened and start afresh with only one Iron Man suit. Thankfully, some wonderfully uncaring one liners sour the saccharine a little, but it's still not quite enough to lift the energy lull. There's also a bit of muddled side plotting going on with the whole Extremis / Killian storyline which somehow manages to derail and detract from the blockbuster action on offer.
Will it lead to an Iron Man 4?
That's the big question - with the Iron Man 3 ending feeling like a kind of wrap up, and Downey Jr's contract being finished with the role, you'd have to wonder if this is the end for Stark. But given this latest performance, he's irreplaceable - and Marvel would be hard pressed to bring anyone else into a role which Downey Jr has made so emphatically his own.
I think the problem with Iron Man 3 is one of expectations; they were so high following the team up of The Avengers - and perhaps wisely, those involved chose to take the Marvel Phase 2 down a deeper, more introspective route for which they should be commended; I really did enjoy the whole Stark having to rely on Stark rather than the suit angle, but couldn't help feeling that I potentially wanted a little more from the film. It's no disaster by any stretch of the imagination and is good, solid entertainment on a Friday night - if this is the direction Marvel Phase 2 is going based on the latest Iron Man movie, then I'm certainly very, very intrigued.
Oh, and make sure you stick around for the obligatory post credits sequence at the end....