Home > Comics, Movies, Reviews > Movie Review: Iron Man 3 may be the best model yet

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 may be the best model yet

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3 splash poster

Iron Man 3 has more flashy, one-and-done suits in it than a high school gym on prom night, but make no mistake about it: director Shane Black has his lens squarely focused on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in this excellent character-driven film.

This is more techno-thriller than superhero punch-em-up, and the change in approach suits the character well.

Tony’s got problems. He doesn’t want to talk about New York or wormholes; they get him all freaked out. He can’t sleep. His Iron Man suits become an obsessive hobby and an escape, and even though he’s got more than a few spares, people are no longer knocking down his door to get at them.

Shane Black takes the concept of the Iron Man suit in a new direction by making them more tools than coveted killing machines with superbatteries. Where everyone wanted a piece of Tony’s brainchild in the last two films, this time the government has their superhero attack dog in James Rhodes, newly christened the Iron Patriot thanks to focus group feedback.

Iron Man 3 War Machine as Iron Patriot Marvel

Instead, the hot tech in Iron Man 3 is Extremis, a highly combustible regenerative nanotechnology created by geek-turned-chic futurist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) and scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). Extremis is providing the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) with highly unstable but nigh-unkillable soldiers, and it’s up to Tony to unravel his own connection to Extremis and stop the Mandarin and Killian before they can take out the President of the United States.

Kingsley’s vaguely Middle Eastern terrorist the Mandarin dominates the air waves for much of the film, drawling out sinister Taliban-esque threats to the United States and making himself a lightning rod for Iron Patriot, the America government, and ultimately Tony Stark himself.

Tony ends up putting himself and Pepper in danger by publicly challenging the Mandarin, which quickly results in a spectacular helicopter assault on Tony’s Malibu estate that effectively eliminates all of Tony’s Iron Man resources.

From then on, it’s tough sledding for old Shell-head.

Director Shane Black strips Tony Stark down to his basics by denying him all his cool gadgets and leaving him stranded in a small town with a single beaten up remote-controllable suit and very little tools with which to fix it. Instead, he’s forced to rely on his own inventiveness and the help of a precoscious boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) for much of the second act of the film.

Black effectively does more with less, forcing Tony to fight the fiery-skinned, swiftly-regenerating Extremis troops of the Mandarin without the use of his suit. And, when Tony finally does get back in the game, Black rewards his audience with some fantastically enjoyable action sequences, including an exhilerating aerial rescue and a nerdgasm-inducing final battle featuring all of Tony’s suits fighting on autopilot.

Iron Man 3 Air Force One Plane Rescue

Robert Downey Jr. does a wonderful job of allowing his character to grow beyond what we’ve seen in past incarnations. Downey plays a deeply troubled Tony who is trying to come to grips with the fact that he’s not as powerful or invulnerable as he once thought. The snappy dialogue is still there – especially in the scenes between Tony and young Harley – but there’s a manic, stressed out undertone to everything that makes him interesting in ways we haven’t seen before. Even his rockstar attitude takes a hit, as it leads to the invention of Extremis and, later, to the Mandarin’s attack on his home.

Guy Pierce does well in playing the villain without hamming it up too much, and Don Cheadle strikes the right tone as a Colonel James Rhodes who is very much his own man, and in no way a sidekick to Iron Man.

But the biggest acting surprise comes in the form of Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. The former Oscar winner has been chewing the scenery in fantasy movies like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and BloodRayne for the last decade, but Shane Black manages to find the perfect niche for the once great actor. Kingsley is surprising and enjoyable, and at no point does it feel like he’s just slumming it for a paycheck.

Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in Iron Man 3

But the one chink in Iron Man 3‘s armor has to be its female characters. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Pots gets a few brief flashes of action – including a stint in Tony’s remote-controlled Mark XLII suit – but otherwise she spends altogether too much time as the damsel in distress, particularly in the final action sequence.

Still worse is Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen, who has a flat, simplistic character arc that will leave you shrugging your shoulders when all is said and done.

Nevertheless, Black sheperds Iron Man through a provocative character arc that leaves Tony with more – and less – than he started with, and opens up some interesting possibilities for the future.

Iron Man 3 manages to up the ante on its story and its visuals, without sacrificing quality or character in the process. It’s fresh, stunning, funny and genuine.

Iron Man 3 may just be the best model yet.

8 out of 10

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  1. May 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I agree that the final two large action sequences were dazzling. It helped that the aerial sequence was performed with stuntmen wearing parachutes! Vlizz is a movie news and review site; here’s what we said about the movie. http://vlizz.com/2013/05/04/iron-man-3-review-tony-stark-leads-avengers-phase-ii-with-a-bang/

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