Shane Black takes over from Jon Favreau and gives the franchise a much needed power boost.
Beginning with a flashback to New Year’s eve 1999 Tony meets Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) a super fan who is setting up his new think tank Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) and wants Stark’s input. Tony being Tony is distracted by his latest fleeting love interest Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and a mullet sporting Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is on hand to protect them from the Y2K virus.
Cut to present day and following the events of The Avengers Tony Stark is a broken man, suffering from post traumatic stress his sleepless nights are only broken by nightmarish flashbacks to New York. Withdrawing from the public’s gaze Stark has been tinkering in the workshop and is perfecting a new suit and obsessing over keeping Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) safe from harm.
Meanwhile a terrorist known as The Mandarin has been bombing random locations and his national broadcasts are terrorising a nation, the ruthless leader of the Ten Rings is a villain with a taste for the theatrics and is widely regarded as Iron Man’s greatest nemesis. The reappearance of Kiillian now every bit Tony’s equal has pioneered the Extremis program, a radical new serum that can regenerate lost limbs but comes with its fair share of side effects (when will these billionaire scientists learn).
Shane Black knows his way around snappy dialogue; Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight – the writer made his directorial debut with the Robert Downey Jr/Val Kilmer movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and his trademark wit shines through here. The banter between Rudy (Don Cheadle) and Tony is so electric you could be mistaken for thinking the god of thunder Thor was about to show up. Co-writer Drew Pearce also pens another of this summer’s big hitters Pacific Rim and his fine work here bodes well for Guillermo del Toro’s giant monster movie.
Unlike Iron Man 2, this time around we get much more of Tony out of the suit which makes a pleasing change of pace. This instalment plays with similar themes as last year’s The Dark Knight Rises as our billionaire playboy philanthropists are both stripped of their wealth, gadgets and question their ability to be a hero. Despite the potentially fun draining emotional turmoil Tony is faced with the tone is kept light and never delves into the depths of a brooding superhero movie. It’s here to provide two hours of entertainment and by Jarvis it delivers. The inclusion of Harley (Ty Simpkins) a young troubled boy who helps Tony fix his suit (and himself) is a nice touch, could he one day grow up to wear the suit himself? Either way it was nice to get some time devoted to Tony dealing with his problems and act as a surrogate father for a kid that has more than a few of his personality traits.
Ben Kingsley makes the perfect Mandarin, in a similar vain to Star Trek Into Darkness marketing campaign has been built around an intelligent villain ever bit as formidable as the hero his presence in a big summer movie adds gravitas in abundance. Without dishing out too many spoilers, comic book purists might feel short changed by the use of the character but there’s a well played piece of misdirection that makes the Mandarin very much a product of this modern world.
The ladies of Iron Man 3 get limited screen-time which is an ongoing gripe of the franchise; Rebecca Hall is a welcome addition as Tony’s one time lover but it’s Paltrow that gets to suit up and proves she can more than handle herself in the action department. The only negative thing to be said about it is the use of 3D, adding very little to the experience overall even the breathtaking mid air rescue of a dozen Air Force One passengers has no added value in 3D.
We live in an age when fans want to know what comes next no sooner than the current film is in cinemas, there’s been speculation over the future of the Iron Man franchise as Downey Jr’s contract with Marvel is now up. On the one hand it brings a trilogy to a natural close but at the same time leaves it wide open for more, although he’s expected to appear in The Avengers 2 there’s currently no deal in place.
Without spoiling the ending after the now traditional post credits scene has finished the words “Tony Stark Will Return” stand proudly on the screen, given Downey Jr’s love of the character and the profitability of the series a new deal should see him return to the fold. There’s still life in the arc reactor yet.
The summer blockbuster season has officially begun and it has got off to a glorious start.
Iron Man 3 is out now in cinemas.