It's perfect that the man who is Iron Man in the Iron Man movies is Robert Downey Jr. I can't think of anyone more symbolic to play a playboy who's the son of someone famous who's ego and arrogance get dimished after an incident that makes him humbled and realizing he's capable of doing more. It's like he was destined to play the role considering that's the exact the same story of Downey's life. And now, if rumors are true that we're faced with the final Iron Man film, it's suiting that it goes out with the best of the series.
When I heard that John Favreau (Swingers, Rudy) was stepping down as Director, I was pretty concerned. I was even more so when I found out he was replaced by Shane Black. He's a guy who's been a fixture in Hollywood for a while but as a screenwriter, most notably as the guy who wrote the Lethal Weapon movies. But aside from Iron Man 3, he only directed one other film and that was the 2005 movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also starring Robert Downey Jr.). It's a really underated and awesome film but it was stripped down, low budget and mostly a character piece masked as an action. Would Black be able to translate his inexpierence and character driven style to a major Summer blockbuster like this? Boy, did he ever!
Some people who go see Iron Man 3 will be disapointed in the lack of action. There are really only two scenes and one barely features Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit; in fact most of the film lacks him in the suit. But what's excellent about the film is that it is very much a character-driven story. Lots of time is spent developing the relationship between Stark and his wife, Pepper Potts, played by the always irritating Gwyneth Paltrow. He also allows the film to get fairly dark, exploring how what happened in last summer's The Avengers, has caused Stark to dwell in anxiety, panic attacks and depression. But just as soon as the film feels it's a little too dark, Black gets us right back out of it with some of the trademark Downey Jr. wit that rattles off the screen like a machine gun.
But my favorite part of the film is what they decided to do with the villain known as The Mandarin. Now anyone who even vaguely knows the Iron Man comics knows that this is THE bad guy for him. He's essentially The Joker to Batman. He has a rich mythology attached to him and a specific biography. He's played chillingly by Sir Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Sexy Beast) in one of the best performances of his career. I can't say too much about this without ruining a major plot point but let's just say they take the character of The Mandarin in a dramatic new direction that is absolutely brilliant. It was bold and ballsy to do that considering how hard fanboys can be on accuracy and I can say that it's one of the reasons why this is the best in the series.
All this praise isn't to say the movie isn't without flaws. There's a sequence involving a little boy that feels incredibly out of place and pointless. It seems as if some Hollywood Producer got his meddling mits on the film and said, "it's good but it either needs a cute kid or a dog or both." Not that the scenes aren't entertaining and funny but it drags on too long and starts to make the 130 minutes feel a lot longer. The lack of action and seeing Tony in the Iron Man suit is also a slight sticking point. I appreciate what they did but that doesn't excuse the fact that when people show up for Iron Man 3 it's not unresonable to expect that they see a lot of Iron Man in it!
The film is everywhere including the Esquire IMAX Theater downtown and, despite the absence of lots of action, the climax is as epic as anything you've seen in the series and the 3D makes it even better. It's also the funniest of the three movies, which is no easy feat to hang your helmet on. I hope to see what Black could do with another Iron Man film but to be perfectly honest, if the rumors are true, this is a perfect way to end the franchise. Iron Man 3 (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A
Listen to Gavin's interview with actor William Sadler (Shawshank Redemption, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) who plays the President in Iron Man 3: