Comedown machine – Iron Man 3 review

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By Simon Miraudo
April 24, 2013

Iron Man 3 carries that ‘morning after’ feeling former playboy Tony Stark is no doubt familiar with. Following the heady highs of The Avengers, this latest entry in the Marvel canon may leave your head-spinning for all the wrong reasons. More of a comedown than a comeback, it’s a bit of a bummer in the wake of Joss Whedon‘s epic, super-fun team-up flick. That’s not because it’s particularly dark or depressing; writer-director Shane Black – subbing in for outgoing captain Jon Favreau – actually keeps proceedings pretty frothy. Rather, it’s a disappointment on account of its overall messiness. There are plenty of great moments within Iron Man 3, but it barely hangs together as a film.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Stark, and he’s still reeling from the events of The Avengers. His rogues’ gallery is no longer exclusively comprised of evil inventors and industrialists; they’re now joined by hundred-foot-long alien squids and the army of Chitauri, those interstellar nasties whose name I neither know how to spell or pronounce. His self-proclaimed “tin can” suit may not be able to save the love of his life Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Unable to sleep, he whips up , oh, an extra forty or so outfits in case another major threat emerges in the immediate future. His timing is impeccable. Terrorist leader The Mandarin (an amusing Ben Kingsley) takes over television screens and pledges a series of bombings on American soil in the weeks leading up to Christmas, culminating in a fireworks display to end all fireworks displays.

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Meanwhile, rival billionaire genius Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) tries to tempt Pepper away from Tony, having enhanced his genes with the use of nanobots and evolving from a Steve Urkel to a total Stefan Urquelle. (Pearce’s CV is now so densely populated with outrageous villains, I can only differentiate them by their hairdos). Rebecca Hall is underutilised as one of Killian’s employees, and, of course, one of Stark’s former conquests. Don Cheadle pops up every now again as Col. Rhodes, now fitted with the Iron Patriot suit, and regularly sent out to do the President’s bidding. And Favreau appears briefly to play Stark Industries’ head of security, Happy Hogan, as well as to remind Shane Black that this shiny new toy of his is merely a loaner.

This marks Black’s first directorial effort since his wonderfully twisted noir Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which not so coincidentally rebooted Downey Jr.’s career too. His dynamite script for Lethal Weapon won him much praise – and more money – back in the late 1980s, and he followed it up with a series of frenetic actioners, almost all of them set during Christmastime. When Iron Man 3 is at its best, it’s when Black’s idiosyncrasies shine through. The rest is a pale imitation of what was achieved in the first two. Favreau’s original Iron Man set the tone for all subsequent Marvel movies, and it doesn’t quite jibe with Black’s sensibilities. As a result, we get two conflicting features butting heads, and it’s about as smooth a viewing experience as metal scraping against metal is a soothing aural one.

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The second act sees Tony isolated and without his trademark suit. It’s a blessing, especially seeing as it follows the incomprehensible and headache-inducing first forty-five minutes (where too much happens too quickly and too joylessly). In a small town, dressed like a regular civilian, Downey Jr. reverts back to Harry Lockhart, the would-be private detective from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and unravels a conspiracy armed with his quick wit and miraculous ability to not get killed. The characters he meets in this strange chapter are practically torn from Black’s past oeuvre, and the genuinely surprising twist involving The Mandarin that closes it would not have seemed out of place in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang either.

Everything else feels as if its fallen off the Marvel production line, assembled not by a mad genius like Black but an algorithm that worked out exactly how many explosions per second would mathematically make this instalment bigger, and thus better. At least two of the action sequences work well, in that they show off Iron Man doing what he does best and saving people’s lives. The cast is also more than fine. Downey Jr. in particular continues to carry this franchise, and proves himself once again to be expertly equipped as Black’s mouthpiece. However, they’re all in service of a script (co-credited to Drew Pearce) that doesn’t care that much about them. The heart is absent. The romance is dead. Stark’s fears of a new, alien-infested world barely explored. This feels slapped together, like the Mark 42; his model of suit that is awkwardly assembled piece by piece. Iron Man 3 has plenty of highlights. That’s all well and good for a YouTube compilation, but not for a motion picture.

3/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Iron Man 3 is now showing in cinemas.

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