Who Needs the Avengers?: A Review of Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 Review

By Dan Shorr

Released this past weekend in the United States and Canada to the second biggest domestic opening in box-office history, Iron Man 3 is an incredibly entertaining comic-book extravaganza and a welcome reprieve from the film’s contrived formulaic predecessor. Shane Black, a stalwart ‘90s action screenwriter best known for Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, makes a triumphant mainstream comeback writing and directing the third solo entry in the Tony Stark saga.

While the action sequences – particularly the epic climatic battle – are well worth the admission price, it’s Black’s clever screenplay that sets Iron Man 3 apart from the average summer blockbuster. Black puts a satirical spin on the traditionally boring Bad-Guy-Wants-Revenge storyline with a portrayal of global terrorism that is both disturbingly realistic and surreally sarcastic. The film is also just flat-out hilarious; Black gives Robert Downey Jr. amble opportunities to flex his comedic chops as Tony throws his signature sardonic quips at anyone in his vicinity, whether it is a terrorist, a girlfriend, an ex-girlfriend, or a prepubescent child.

Despite the humor, Iron Man 3 does bring a distinctly darker tone to the franchise, although certainly not as dreary and emo as another recent threequel, The Dark Knight Rises. In addition to random bombings and the global terrorism plot, Tony Stark is haunted by his near-death experience in New York and suffers continual anxiety attacks. Black further stresses the protagonists’ vulnerability by smartly taking Tony out of his protective armor for long stretches of the film, forcing the genius/billionaire/ playboy/philanthropist to prove that he doesn’t need the iron suit to be a superhero.

Thankfully, after the lackluster presence of Russian Mickey Rourke and his electric jump ropes, Iron Man 3 introduces a worthy adversary in the Mandarin. Portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin is an amalgam of terrorist tropes who hijacks the airways to stream his Bin Laden-esque home movies. Originally a Chinese scientist wielding ten powerful alien rings in the comic books, Shane Black’s version of the Mandarin is an eccentric adaptation made even more dramatic by a shocking revelation I won’t spoil for you here.

Because you can’t have a $200 million, 135 minute blockbuster without multiple villains and minor subplots featuring A-list actors and actresses, expect to see some familiar faces and underdeveloped storylines. Don Cheadle – decked out in a new, test-audience approved patriotic paintjob of his old War Machine armor – returns as Tony’s best bud Col. James Rhodes, while a shifty Guy Pearce causes havoc with a crew of fire-steroid enhanced soldiers. Gwyneth Paltrow also shows up and does a great job of giving her toned stomach prominent screen time.

3/4 Stars.

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