Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

****

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

Let's get the disappointing stuff out of the way first: still no use of “does whatever an iron can”. Seriously. You've had four films, guys. Fingers crossed for the Avengers sequel.

Not that this film doesn't feel like an Avengers sequel itself. Director/co-writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) has wisely decided to ignore Iron Man 2 almost entirely. He's also set a summer blockbuster at Christmas and made an action movie that's principally about the relationships between the main characters rather than things exploding. Trust the man, he knows what he's doing.

Things do explode. Lots of things. The difference between this and the previous outing is that we care why they're exploding and about the people who are standing next to them when they do. Good writing should give your audience some emotional investment in your characters, and Iron Man Three has good writing in spades.

In broad strokes, the plot is pretty familiar stuff: Tony Stark designs a fancy new suit, a villain threatens him and his stuff, he's given some human frailty to contrast the impervious nature of his superhero persona, he reaches a low ebb, he modifies the van (to borrow an A-Team trope) and then some things explode. It's all the colouring in between the lines that's rendered so beautifully here. We begin with a flashback to Stark's playboy days, an early encounter with scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and awkward businessman Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Will Tony Stark's habit of being a dick to everyone he meets turn out to have some Serious Consequences? Let's say yes.

Fans of the comic may recognise characters from Warren Ellis' Extremis arc, on which the plot is loosely based. Top marks if so. There's not much to say about the Mandarin without giving the game away, but suffice to say Ben Kingsley does the role justice and appears to have a great deal of fun doing so. Gwyneth Paltrow continues to convince as Pepper Potts, Robert Downey Junior continues to actually be Tony Stark, and Guy Pearce appears to be revisiting his role as the young Peter Weyland from the Prometheus TED talk, which is no bad thing. Rebecca Hall doesn't get much of a role by contrast, but she makes the most of it and it's nice to see her getting some variety in the roles she's offered. One to keep an eye on.

If there's one thing the Iron Man series struggles with, it's coming up with enemies that provide a credible threat to Tony Stark. The henchmen here are certainly threatening, but hardly credible. The performances are fine, but you're going to have to forget a lot of what you thought you knew about physics. James Badge Dale stands out in his role as sub-boss, providing plenty of menace without over-egging the ham, so to speak.

There's a point where Tony teams up with a wide-eyed young boy, something every franchise of this nature seems to go through sooner or later. Fortunately, the Robocop 3 bullet is dodged, with the relationship more closely resembling that of Arnie and the kid in Last Action Hero. Shane Black had a writing credit on that, as it turns out. Anyway, the kid's main purpose is to provide someone for Tony Stark to be a dick to, so that's okay.

The film takes almost two hours to reach its crescendo, but it earns it, Downey Junior's charisma powering through the stretches between action sequences. This is where most of the exploding things explode, and the very nature of the things that are exploding is central to the film's main character dynamic. These are explosions with purpose.

I haven't even mentioned the amazing skydiving stunt accomplished using a real parachute team. Or the fact that Pepper gets to properly kick some arse this time round. Or the way the post-credits-sequence recontextualises the entire film. This time the Iron Man-ia is justified. Go and see Iron Man Three.

Reviewed on: 27 Apr 2013
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When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, Stark starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
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Director: Shane Black

Writer: Drew Pearce, Shane Black, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, James Badge Dale, Stan Lee, Bingbing Fan, Yvonne Zima, Stephanie Szostak, Dale Dickey

Year: 2013

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US, China

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