Directed by Shane Black
Released 25th April
With an attitude that could be deftly referred to as ‘quip-ass’, Tony Stark, Iron Man and Robert Downey Jnr. could well have felt that last year’s Avengers film was the pinnacle of recent action outings and no more needed to be proven. However contractual obligations (and the actor’s chance to re-team with Downey’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black) have given us a second sequel to the character that originally launched Marvel Studios into the stratosphere.
Certainly there was some trepidation when Jon Favreau left the director’s chair and a vocal murmuring over whether an Iron Man 3 would be eclipsed by the events of Joss Whedon’s magnum-most-opus. Thankfully it was quickly acknowledged that if you can’t go bigger… you go deeper and this latest ‘shellhead’ adventure goes behind the mask – metaphorically and literally stripping away the armour to see what makes Tony’s ticker tick.
Stark is still busy innovating and inventing, so much so that he’s neglecting Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and foregoing sleep. After so nearly losing everything during the alien attack on New York, he’s a victim of shell-shock and driven to make the perfect suit of armour so that he can keep his nearest and dearest safe. It clearly won’t work… as first his best friend Happy Hogan (Favreau – making some meta-quips about the character’s change in employment) is seriously hurt by an apparently super-powered soldier (played by James Badge Dale) and then his Malibu condo is blasted to smithereens by uber-terrorist The Mandarin, nearly costing Pepper her life.
Add to the mix two faces reappearing from Stark’s past – ex-paramour Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and inventor Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) – and it’s clear Stark’s got more trouble than one surviving suit of armour can handle. Hansen was originally working on bio-upgrading the human body and it appears that her ‘Extremis’ work is now being utilised by both The Mandarin and Killian.
Separated from his home and family but not his intellect, Tony Stark doesn’t go ‘dark’ knight, but certainly gets ready to rise again. Never going too far down the solemn Christopher Nolan avenue, Iron Man 3 manages to be a slightly lighter-hued story of revenge. There are moments of high drama and angst and the idea of overcoming a villain who clearly has you at a disadvantage from the start… but those familiar with Black and Downey can rightly expect the subversive, sardonic humour of past ventures and something that the recent Batman outing was notably missing. This is a serious story, but one about people who have an uncanny knack of never taking themselves too seriously.
Downey is excellent, Paltrow is given significantly more to do and co-star Don Cheadle as Rhodey/Iron Patriot gets to steal a few scenes of his own. Sir Ben Kingsley is one of the performers that will undoubtedly be getting a lot of column inches for his performance and his innate theatrical career and CV truly allow him to grasp his role with both hands. Pearce’s Killian is delightfully slimy and Hall’s Hansen suitably smoulders (in a purely scientific way, of course!).
Verdict: This is a fantastic romp that neatly follows on from the previous Iron Man movies, betters the second chapter and feels organically grown from the rubble of The Avengers. Downey may not be contractually bound to reprise the character in any more sequels, but one hopes he will. 9/10
(And, oh yes, stay until after the credits for the traditional (fun, if not exactly essential) extra scene…)