The Monocle – Iron Man 3

iron-man-3-official-hd copy
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Shane Black & Drew Pearce
Released: May 3rd, 2013
Theatre watched at: AMC Universal City Walk, Los Angeles

Phase 2 has officially begun! I’d like to take a moment to applaud Marvel Studios, whatever the true balance of luck and pure creativity may have been, for having such a successful Phase 1report. From Iron Man (2008) to The Avengers (2012), all six Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been well received, some much more than others, but nonetheless a very impressive feat. I mean can you think of a franchise that has gone around as many times as this with each turn just gaining more momentum? Yeah, not even Star Wars, sorry. That being said, it looks like the winning streak is going to zoom along just fine because the third outing for our, let’s face it, most beloved Avenger, shows us that there is still plenty of man to uncover beneath the armor–Iron Man 3 is fantastic.

The film begins with a fun flashback to a 1999 New Years Party from which we learn of one of Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) former flings with botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), the creator of a regenerative treatment known as Extremis. At the same time, disabled scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) wishes to speak with Tony about having him and Maya join his company Advance Idea Mechanics, and makes arrangements to meet with Tony later in the night. Of course Tony never meets with him, leaving a depressed Killian in the cold, then leaving Maya the next morning. We are then brought to the present–Tony is dealing with PTSD symptoms resulting from the events in New York, while a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is responsible for bombings occurring around the nation, seemingly for his disgust of America. When the Mandarin severely hurts one of Tony’s close friends during one of the bombings, Tony taunts the Mandarin to come straight for him. The Mandarin replies with a massive assault on Tony’s home and girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) completely destroying what is known of Tony’s life and burying deep in the ocean. Although Tony escapes, he is stripped down to flesh and bones, and once again he must use his brains to defeat the Mandarin, who also seems to be in alliance with none other than a bitter Aldrich Killian who has been using Maya Hansen’s Extremis serum for no good.

Undoubtedly overwhelmingly better than the half-disappointment that was Iron Man 2 (2010), Shane Black injects more than enough of his slick wit writing to make this franchise feel fresh again, and with some amazing action sequences/set pieces as well as another polished performance from Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 3 is not only a great way to kick-off the summer, it’s really the only proper way to kick-off a very promising Phase 2.

The one thing that stands out, and is really IM3’s strongest aspect, is that this is clearly a Shane Black film. If you haven’t already seen his film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (a phenomenal film also starring RDJ), you’re doing yourself a great disservice because you will see just how well Black’s snarky and down-to-earth tone can translate over so well to a character and atmosphere that is Tony Stark and his story. The film is just hilarious from beginning to end, and although the script doesn’t shine when it comes down to the scientific and terrorist plot jargon, it carries such a kick in the moments where Tony is just being Tony that it’s more than forgivable. The most genius move about about the screenplay is how much time they decide to keep Tony out of the suit; there’s a good portion of the film that takes place in Tennessee where Tony is stuck with an uncharged suit and ends up teaming with a 10-year-old boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) and it’s just gold what happens between the two and is something completely unexpected. One of my favorite moments in the franchise so far is a short exchange that occurs between the two where Harley attempts to guilt trip Tony into feeling bad, asking him “so you’re going to leave me like my dad did?” after Tony has to continue his adventure elsewhere, and Tony’s response, with such bravura, is simply “Yup.”

I have to say I wasn’t expecting it, seeing as I was never sure if Black had the chops for it, but the action in the film is well placed, well executed, and inventive! Not to give away too much, but there is an arial sequence that takes place just as the Mandarin attacks Air Force One and Tony must figure out a way to safely acquire and land 11 people free-falling in the air–it’s a thrilling sequence that is punctuated by the fact that some of the shots actually had real skydivers. Then of course there’s the final battle that takes place one of those tall and massive oil rigging thingies that you see by the docks that look like dinosaurs from afar, and that is just one of the most impressive action set pieces I’ve seen utilized in years. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know that Tony calls upon his suits for back up during this scene, and I’m telling you, the sh*t that ensues as Tony tries to utilize these suits to his advantage is enough to make the sequence the best of the series thus far.

Now to address some of the potentially shaky aspects of the film that many fans were worried about, don’t worry, Ben Kingsley nails the Mandarin like he’s putting up wood during a zombie apocalypse, he’s just brilliant in the role. Also, if you haven’t heard already, there is a controversial twist that occurs regarding this character and from what I’ve seen in comment sections all over the internet, it’s about a 50/50 split. To speak against the haters, I think the twist is excellently handled and should be looked at as a perfect way to keep the audience on their toes and reinvigorate excitement for new things in Phase 2. As for Guy Pearce playing Aldrich Killian, he does a great job with what he’s given and so I don’t blame Pearce when I say that I think Killian, like the past two villains in the previous films, isn’t a formidable enough enemy for Tony. I’m not going to lie, as much as Iron Man is, at this point, Marvel’s biggest hit franchise in relation to the Thor and Cap. America films, the Iron Man villains are just not that great. Killian is definitely not that bad to be a make-or-break, but he’s definitely a villain most people can probably feel indifferent to.

Possibly the biggest gripe I find with Iron Man 3 other than Killian, is Iron Man’s supposed partner Colonel James Rhodes as the Iron Patriot. Now, for the record, I always thought Terence Howard made a much better Rhodey than Don Cheadle–Cheadles is a phenomenal actor, but his freaking stern ass face and demeanor is just not as cool or contains the same chemistry like Howard did with RDJ. At the very least I thought by now they’d make Rhodey seem much more of a partner to Tony, but they still decide to leave him to the sidelines, which I think is such a waste! I want to see War Machine/Iron Patriot fight along side Iron Man! I want to Rhodey and Tony to do the whole buddy-cop thing, because in IM1Jon Favreau (who reprises his role as Happy Hogan in this one thank goodness) successfully created such a great bond between the two characters, they had such more interaction with each other. In IM3 I feel like the barely shared any time at all together, I mean they made the effort to visually make Iron Patriot pop out at you, but no effort to stage a sequence where we can finally have that iconic scene where War Machine and Iron Man really vibe. Okay, you say there’s the cherry blossom Japanese drone fight in IM2, and you are correct, however, as much as the scene was pretty awesome, it wasn’t AMAZING or that memorable. It’s whatever, again, not a make-or-break, but let’s hope War Machine plays a bigger part in Avengers 2.

To wrap things up, if you’re a fan of Iron Man like I am, this is definitely a must-see, even for those just looking for some good summer fun. Shane Black adds a much needed change of tone to the franchise that plays beautifully to the true star of the show Tony Stark/RDJ. Iron Man 3 is a movie that took risks in most of the right places and gets the job done beautifully, perhaps if you end up begin disappointed with the villains, you’ll still be able to find enjoyment in the hilarious banter and glorious action. Oh, and for fans of Pepper, she gets quite the upgraded role in this one, which I found awesome…but you’ll see what I mean.

Bow Tie Approved

Bow Tie Score - 4.0