Third films in a franchise are more often a curse than a worthy entry. The high point of a series has been reached and there is nowhere to go but down. X-Men, Spider-Man, Blade, we could list the trilogies that fall into the toilet all day and it would do nothing but make us leery about any more movie franchises. I can say with a lot of confidence that Iron Man 3 is an exception to this cinematic pattern.
Robert Downey Jr. returns as the titular hero in this film and delivers a performance that only further cements his standing as one of the best. You might think you’ve seen it all with Tony Stark but there’s plenty left that remains to be seen, Iron Man 3 proves that. Downey continues down the route of being the likable jerk, continuously cracking jokes and making sarcastic remarks, which would become tiresome in some films, but when you have as much charisma and heart as Downey, it’s a pure joy to watch. He owns this role, he knows that, and he’s having so much fun on the screen that you can’t help but smile in the theater.
One thing that makes this movie really special though is the cast. Series veterans Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau and Gwyneth Paltrow capitalize on their experience with the characters and bring their most enjoyable moments of the entire franchise. Now that they’ve got a few movies under the belt they’re free to just be the characters, they don’t have to worry about playing second fiddle to Tony anymore. Everyone gets their own place in the movie and they’re all delightful.
Franchise newcomers Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley are true highlights of the film. Kingsley in particular brings something to the table that will forever be a controversial moment in superhero cinema and will likely divide fans for years, and for the record I think it’s amazing. Pearce provides a true transformation as Aldrich Killian, pushing his character down multiple paths that some actors don’t even get in an entire series. Another high point in the film’s huge actor repertoire is 11-year-old Ty Simpkins as Harley. Children often present a hurdle in films of this nature. Lacking the experience of the rest of the cast, they tend to stick out, but Simpkins keeps up with and sometimes out-maneuvers RDJ in their shared scenes. The one weak link in the film is Rebecca Hall’s Maya Hansen. Not to say she does a poor job, far from it, but unlike the other actors in the film, there’s nothing memorable about her character. Plus, every time she’s on screen we’re not getting Kingsley, which is a shame.
When it was announced that director Shane Black was being brought on for the film, that should have been the first sign that things were headed in the right direction. Black is known for writing some of the best action movies ever made and his signature style is the kind of flair that this franchise needed to keep it from becoming stale. Many comic book movies suffer from muddled and repetitive action sequences, but this is not one of them. Each action beat in this film is different from the last. They all are presented in a way that makes them unique and also interesting and integral to the story. This sounds like an exaggeration, but how many different things can you do with a guy in a high-tech suit of armor anyway? You’d be surprised, especially after the previous Marvel films appeared to show everything Iron Man is capable of.
Not only are the action sequences totally mesmerizing, but the script (co-written by Black and Drew Pearce) is wonderful. Sequences never feel inflated or too short, everything is properly presented and flows with astounding accuracy. The charm and snappiness they’ve written in the dialogue should make Joss Whedon lose sleep over The Avengers 2, because they took what he did with that ensemble and doubled down.
One very magnificent thing about the plot for Iron Man 3 is that it unfolds in a way where it feels like a comic book series, which is one of the best compliments a film such as this can be paid. It takes into account the events of the previous two movies and The Avengers, using their outcomes as influence for the characters’ journeys through the story, but it has crafted its own stand-alone adventure. You need no knowledge beforehand of Iron Man or The Avengers (yes, it helps in order to get some of the little things), but that is the mark of a good comic, a way to welcome in and tantalize new readers. This sets it apart from other superhero sequels which sometimes try and force a grandiose plot and fail. Iron Man 3 should make future movies try harder to be better.
Iron Man 3 is a high point for Marvel Studios. After last summer’s The Avengers many assumed the individual character’s respective movies would never be able to pull off a scope of that magnitude – they’re wrong. This sequel soared above all my expectations and could end up being the high point both for the summer and Marvel sequels as a whole. Like few other films, Iron Man 3 truly is a comic book come to life. Welcome to Phase 2.
Rating : 9 / 10