While the previous two Iron Man films were great money-makers, and the first in the series having reinvigorated and redefined the superhero film genre, the decision to replace Jon Favreau with Shane Black (at Robert Downey Jnr’s suggestion) was the best decision made for the franchise. Iron Man 3 stands as the freshest, funniest and most interesting Iron Man, and Marvel film, made thus far.
Shane Black worked with RDJ on a film called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) at a time when RDJ was still considered a risk to hire. The modern-day noir was very well written, had a lot of spark and great performances, and was something of a minor classic (at least for me). It set the tone for RDJ’s return to form, and his performances in all subsequent films, that is to say the use of the lovable, charming arsehole. While it may work for some characters (Tony Stark) it doesn’t work that well for others (Sherlock Holmes) but never the less KKBB is where it all began, and is the best example of this RDJ character in use.
With Drew Pearce as co-screenwriter, Black brings back some of that charm to RDJ’s Tony Stark, and contains some of the most successful dialogue moments the character has ever utilized in any film appearance. It’s good to watch this film with a good crowd as it only enhances the experience, and the jokes really work. The jokes aren’t that obvious and that’s a great thing for a film for kids involving kids. The film contains the most surprising and cringe-inducing opening song I’ve heard in a film (you’ll know what I mean), which was a great experience to sit through.
It is a fine choice to show the effects the Avengers film had on Tony Stark’s psyche, and the effects and interesting and convincing. One of the major problems I had with Iron Man 2 is that even after all of the character development of Stark in the first film Stark was still arrogant as hell. This film dials that down significantly, where he is a bit more subdued but not out-of-character, showing more progression than previously. The focus on Stark being a mechanic and a tinkerer helped in making him more like an individual and not just a flashier Bruce Wayne as well.
Guy Pearce is great as Aldrich, a sinister former employer of Pepper, played by Paltrow, who’s as solid as Rebecca Hall and Don Cheadle, who is now known as Iron Patriot. If there is one major complaint about the film is that these characters are sidelined for most of the film, and their appearances are almost an afterthought. The great Stark stuff is more than worth it, but I wish Iron Patriot got more of a better run. Ben Kinglsey is a revelation as the villain Mandarin, one of the most memorable villains of all of the Marvel Films. William Sadler is an odd choice to play a president, as he usually plays villains. This leads to some of the interesting political content the film contains.
The film seems to contain some kind of Bush-era criticism, which while still relevant to an extent seems a little out of place. Pearce’s character makes mention of Sadler’s president pulling strings for rich industrialist friends; a criticism levelled at W. Bush. In addition to this fact that Sadler looks a bit like Bush adds to this comparison.
Cheadle’s War Machine is re-branded Iron Patriot. War Machine makes no appearance in the film, despite what the merchandise will tell you. At one point in the film Iron Patriot has been tasked with hunting down Kinglsey’s Mandarin in Pakistan. The film presents an image of a living weapon, coloured like an American flag, kicking in doors and aiming space-age weapons at Muslims. The obvious Bin Laden comparisons to Mandarin aside, and you find yourself with a 2013 film that has themes and images that seem to reflect a pre-death-of-Bin-Laden War on Terror film, only with less criticism that films from that era would provide. Even the comic book The Ultimates (by Mark Millar) questioned the use of Captain America in Iraq, a living WMD wrapped in an American Flag. The invading ‘knight in shining (American) armour’ idea is presented with very little irony, which is a shame.
I find it interesting that Iron Patriot occupies such a role in this film. The image of a Captain America-esque Iron Man came about from someone tinkering with a Marvel Civil War cover of Iron Man holding Cap’s shield. This inspired the villain Iron Patriot, which was worn by Norman Osbourne, a Spider-man villain. The role suits Rhodey and like the design in the film, I just wish there was a bit more of it in the film.
So an interesting film, well made, even if some of the themes seem out of place or a little dated in a contemporary mindset. The supporting cast get little to play with (comparatively) but the overall experience is satisfying and all make great use of their time. It also contains the greatest third act of the franchise (I love all the extra armours!). And if you’re wondering why this film takes place at Christmas: Black wrote Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boyscout, Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, all of which take place at Christmas. It’s his thing.