Changing the writer and director for this third Iron Man movie turns out to be the best thing that could have happened, because Shane Black is a much more focussed filmmaker, and he gives this franchise a badly needed kick. We know that he and Downey work well together (see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), but we could never have anticipated how Black would bring clarity to Downey's comical riffs. He also makes the action scenes much more human, and therefore a lot more thrilling.
The story takes place in the overall Marvel chronology. Wealthy arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Downey) is feeling badly shaken by his experience working with the Avengers to fight off an alien invasion. So he dives into his work and neglects his relationship with Pepper (Paltrow), who also runs his company. Then two faces from the past reappear: bio-scientist Maya (Hall) is an old colleague of Tony's, while technical genius Aldrich (Pearce) has a past with Pepper. And both seem somehow connected to a wave of nasty bombings that is terrorising America, masterminded by a menacing man who calls himself the Mandarin (Kingsley). And the Mandarin's next target is Tony.
Intriguingly, the script keeps Tony out of the Iron Man suit for much of the film's running time, which makes his character feel much more grounded than ever before. It also makes the action set pieces even more spectacular, since they're not mere robot-vs-robot animated battles. So even if the dialog is peppered with technical gibberish, at least it has a personal dimension. Which not only deepens Tony and Pepper as characters, but makes the surrounding people more interesting. These include Tony's old pal (Cheadle), two self-healing goons (Dale and Szostak) and a pre-teen (Simpkins) who helps Tony. And with his constantly surprising character, Kingsley very nearly steals the show.
Black proves to be expert at directing enormous action sequences that are bracingly coherent. Each of the three key set-pieces uses jaw-dropping inventiveness to push the story ever-forward, never letting the digital effects work take over the movie. Even the 3D is subtle and effective because it's never too flashy. In other words, keeping Tony out of his metal suit was a stroke of genius. And Black has hopefully given Marvel a more human focus that can continue into future adventures.
Run time: 130 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd May 2013
Box Office USA: $409.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.2B
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Production compaines: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, DMG Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 220 Rotten: 61
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Shane Black
Producer: Kevin Feige
Screenwriter: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia 'Pepper' Potts, Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James Rhodes, Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery, Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice), William Sadler as President Ellis, James Badge Dale as Savin, Yvonne Zima as Miss Elkridge, Ashley Hamilton as Jack Taggert, Spencer Garrett as Rose Hills Sherrif, Bridger Zadina as Richie, Chris Gethard as Juan, Roy McCrerey as Military Advisor, Jonathan Jackson as Hollywood Type, Stephanie Szostak as Ellen Brandt, Noah Visconti as Neptune's Net Boy, Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener, Jenna Ortega as Vice President's Daughter, Bronte D'Esposito as Neptune's Net Girl, Miguel Ferrer as Vice President Rodriguez, Stan Lee as Pageant Judge
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