A lot has been said about Tony Stark’s trilogy capper since it’s release in 2013, and not a lot of it nice.
Which truly is a shame as of all the movies released in Marvel’s first and second phases, it has so much more to say than you’re average superhero blockbuster. Political jabs, a hero with PTSD, and a impromptu team up with a child that doesn’t make you want to vomit up your popcorn, action writer/director demi-God Shane Black takes his techo-Tom Clancy style thriller and flips conventions left, right and centre.
A drawling super-terrorist know only as The Mandarin has America over a barrel with a string of seemingly unconnected bombings all across the United States and when the latest blast nearly kills someone close to Tony he wades in with all the bluster he can muster. There is a slight problem, however, as Tony’s little near-death trip through a worm hole at the end of The Avengers has left him somewhat vulnerable. Neglecting his relationship with Stark Enterprise’s CEO Pepper Potts and prone to dehabilitating panic attacks Tony’s peace of mind is on a razor’s edge and slipping fast so when a devastating missile attack on his Malibu Home leaves him stranded in Tennessee and cut off from everyone he has to dig deep to get back to being the guy who confidently stated “I Am Iron Man” back in ’08.
Based on Warren Ellis’ Extremis comic book arc, Iron Man 3 is an obvious attempt to get more character back into the franchise after the glib Iron Man 2. More emphasis is made on getting Robert Downey Jr. out of that CGI metal suit and have him on the ropes for most of the picture, which in my mind, brings the series back to the best moments of the original with our hero, metaphorically, back in the cave. Here Downey Jr. is free to unleash the full force of his charisma unencumbered by that featureless metal mask and navigate the vast amount of plot twists hurtling his way.
And WHAT plot twists! Famously dividing audiences like the Dead Sea, THAT villain revelation (you know the one) seems like a stroke of genius now, with the concept of rich white guys creating international villains to further their aims seeming horrifically relevant. The script by Black and Drew Pearce (the director of Hotel Artemis) keeps things zippy and humorous with the usual types of action set pieces getting fun new spins on usual tropes. The finale, instead utilising of the familiar suit vs suit fisticuffs, has Stark leaping from suit TO suit as he’s overwhelmed by the glowy Extremis super soldiers and a cracking midair rescue as Iron Man races to rescue a dozen people plunging from a hole in Air Force One ranks as one of the best of the trilogy.
The performances are ace (although Rebecca Hall is underused and Guy Pierce is under cooked) with extra credit to Ben Kingsley for his multilayered “Mandarin” performance.
Of all the entries in the MCU, Iron Man 3 (or Three if the credits are to be believed) it the one most worthy of reappraisal as it’s subversive drawing from headline news makes one of the first entries from Marvel’s super-franchise to actually be ABOUT anything other than great characters and property damage.