Title: Iron Man 3 (2013)
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer
Iron Man 3 is exactly what it’s supposed to be when you take in consideration that it’s directed by Shane Black. But who the hell is Shane Black you might ask? Well, most movie buffs will know that he’s the mastermind behind the scripts for such classics as Lethal Weapon (1987), The Last Boyscout (1991), The Monster Squad (1987), Last Action Hero (1996) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). Mind you, I said he’s the mastermind behind the scripts for these movies, not the direction, because that’s what Shane Black’s been doing for a large part of his career, writing awesome movies. By the way, during the 90’s, Mr. Black became Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter! For The Last Boy Scout he got paid a cool 1.75 million dollars, the highest any screenwriter had gotten paid at the time. Then for The Long Kiss Good Night he got paid four freaking million dollars! And it was a box office failure! After that huge failure, Shane Black retracted from writing anything. Reportedly he wanted to get away from associating himself with big budget movies. He then resurfaced into the limelight by writing and directing the fast paced action comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) which starred Robert Downey Jr, so it makes all the sense in the world seeing them working together again for this third Iron Man film. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was Shane Black’s first directing gig, and it was a successful one. Now he says that directing is what really gets his panties up in a bunch, he loves it. So, here comes Iron Man 3, his second shot at directing a film, and his biggest project to date, how did it go?
Iron Man 3 picks up right where The Avengers (2012) left off, with Tony Stark dealing with the whole aftermath of saving New York from an alien invasion and traveling through wormholes and all that. Apparently, Mr. Stark cannot deal with the fact that he saved millions of lives and possibly the entire planet from an alien invasion. Wormholes, demi-gods and aliens give Stark sporadic anxiety attacks. The mere mention of anything related to The Avengers or wormholes will get him all panicky. At the same time, there’s a new villain on the horizon. One that wants to destroy America! Will Iron Man be psychologically stable enough to battle his own demons and stop The Mandarin and his minions at the same time?
Staying true to the kind of characters that Shane Black likes to write, this time around Stark is an unstable protagonist. If you’ve seen some of Blacks previous films, you’ll find that many of his stories have protagonists who are unstable psychologically, angry and on the edge. I mean, the best example I guess would be the first film he ever wrote; Lethal Weapon. On that one we meet Martin Riggs, a guy who’s a borderline psycho. A guy who is depressed because he lost his wife. Without her, his life is meaningless, he doesn’t care if he gets shot, or dies, or what. In fact, the guy is downright suicidal! Another example would be the main character in The Last Boy Scout; a private detective called Joe. His daughter hates him and his wife is being unfaithful to him with his best friend! It is sufficient to say he hates his life as well. Bruce Willis goes throughout the whole movie looking all pissed off. And so when I see Tony Stark having nightmares and getting anxiety attacks, it makes all the sense in the world because Shane Black loves writing characters that are troubled and confounded that way. His characters are always dealing with some terrible issue in their lives that doesn’t allow them to be happy. This is the kind of Tony Stark you’ll be seeing in Iron Man 3. How blue is Tony Stark in this movie? Well, to give you an idea, the film starts out with the one hit wonder by Eifel 65 called “Blue (Da-Ba-Dee)”; that’s how blue!
This doesn’t mean that Iron Man 3 is all gloom and doom, because let’s face it, this is Disney, and they are not about selling gloom and doom. So what we have here is a light version of a dark and gloomy guy, I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t. This new Iron Man is a classic Shane Black troubled protagonist, but he’s just not about to blow his brain out. Tony Stark, though unhinged and delicate psychologically, still retains his wits and good humor about him, as if trying to hide all these bad things going on in his head. One of the elements I enjoyed the most about this Iron Man is how it strips the character down completely. The film starts out by having Tony Stark saying in a voice over, “you know who I am” this immediately lets us know what the main theme of the film will be. The dissection of what makes Iron Man; Iron Man. Is it his suit? Is it Tony Stark? Or is it a combination of both? There are many visual indications that what the film is trying to tell us is that it’s the man that makes the suit, and not the other way around. There’s this idea behind the film that without Tony Stark, these suits would just be clunky, clumsy things. There is an interesting duality to this character: the suit represents technology and Tony Stark represents humanity and there’s this clash between the two. They are trying to co-exist with each other, but it’s not a perfect match. Well, at least not in this film. So this is why during this film you will see Tony Stark relying less and less on his suit and more and more on his cunning. This is probably the reason why throughout the whole film, Tony is jumping in and out of the suit.
Black established a motif, a recurrent thematic element in the film and it’s Stark, the human vs. the Iron Man armor. Though the suits are helpful in many ways, on this film they are also shown to be imperfect, failing, unreliable, a hindrance to Stark; some of the funniest moments come from this. Shane Black decided to portray the suit like something similar to a smart phone, you have to charge it if you want to use it, and sometimes when you need it the most, it’s not charged! Or the battery dies. So be ready to see one of these movies that turns its main character around. It turns its once indestructible protagonist into someone vulnerable, confused and disrupt. They used the same formula that was used for Skyfall (2012), in that film the filmmakers took James Bond and made him a vulnerable mess. In Iron Man 3 they took the character, who is usually indestructible and stripped him of all his gadgets and powers and left him with the bare essentials, no additives, no preservatives, just pure unadulterated Tony Stark. This might prove to be a bit shocking to those who expect to get their usual indestructible version of Iron Man. In fact, you’ll see more of Tony Stark then you will of Iron Man himself. Sometimes Stark will only use parts of the suit instead of the entire suit. Or sometimes he’ll be working the suit from afar, from remote control. Point is, Mr. Black purposely drew a separating line between Tony Stark and his armor.
But is the movie any fun? I say hell yea it is. Shane Black might want to show us a darker, more disrupt version of Tony Stark, but he still has to deliver the goods on the action and “wowzers!” department. So does Iron Man 3 deliver on the action? I say the film delivers a fine balancing act between being character driven, and exploring Stark on a deeper level while also delivering the show stopping action. Case in point: the scene where they blow up Starks mansion is a real grabber. So is the one that takes place in and out of Air Force One, then there's the climactic scene that takes place on an oil rig. We get The Mandarin as the films major villain, and though he might not be what comic book fans might expect, I thought he was still cool. I would have named him something else other than The Mandarin, because he isn’t The Mandarin from the comics. Its obvious Black was playing with our expectations of the character. I don’t know why he chose to deviate so radically from what the character is supposed to be, but for some reason he avoided The Mandarin’s oriental origins and completely eschewed the ten alien power rings that he’s supposed to wear on each finger. They didn’t even include his superhuman martial arts abilities, though he does fight good. The only thing that’s left from the comic book version of the character is that he can slice Iron Man’s suit with his bare hands; so everything in this movie is pretty much in order, save for the way they decided to portray The Mandarin. But hell, if you don't follow the comics, never mind. Then he's just a cool super villain.
In my opinion, Iron Man 3 is the best written of the three films. It does a good balancing act between exploring what constitutes Iron Man and heavy doses of awesome action. There’s a couple of new additions as well, for example, they went the way of RoboCop 3 (1993) and added a homeless kid into the story. The kid becomes Iron Man’s sidekick for a spell; which I thought was a good idea; it gives all the twelve year olds out there a character to identify with, and at the same time, it gave Tony Stark the chance of becoming a father figure. There’s more interesting developments and surprises, but I don't want to spoil them for you. Just make sure you stick till after the credits for a little extra scene/joke that was pretty funny. The film might disappoint some hardcore Mandarin fans, maybe the film will disappoint those who want to see Tony Stark inside of the armor for 95% of the film, but for those who want to get to know what makes Iron Man tick, for those who get more of a kick from watching Robert Downey Jr. doing his thing, well, then you’re gonna love this Iron Man flick.
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5