Last year, after Joss Whedon’s The Avengers received critical attention, people everywhere wondered how the series was going to transition back to stand alone movies. Out of all the characters from The Avengers, Robert Downey Jr.’s character of Iron Man is by far the most popular, as can be seen in the box office numbers. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 brought in $585 million and $624 million respectively, nearly twice any of the other stand-alone films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While those two figures may seem staggering, The Avengers made more than $1.5 billion. For those who are not the best at math, 1.5 billion is more than twice 624 million. Why do I bring this up? Because The Avengers changed how Disney ran the series. The audience for Marvel properties is now gargantuan. How does a studio appeal a film for approximately 175 million people? The studio makes the film as risk-free as possible. There is very little tension during the film. Whenever anything bad happens, no one truly expects anything to be permanently bad. Tony Stark will stand back up, and defeat his enemies. Sure, the audience goes into the film knowing this, and next to nobody complains, so why am I? Because I have to.
Shane Black does the best he can with the Iron Man 3 script, and he directs it well. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that Iron Man 3 is the best Iron Man film thus far. I would also say it is the second best film out of the seven in the series, right behind The Avengers. It all is starting to feel pretty old, though. Even with Robert Downey Jr.’s charms, the consistent wittiness, the unexpected moments, the all around good acting (especially on Ben Kingsley’s part), and the transition from a team up movie to a solely Iron Man movie. Unfortunately, the flick is fifteen minutes shorter than The Avengers and it feels a half hour longer.
At this point I must say that I did not think it was strictly bad by any means. It was pretty good actually. There were some truly excellent moments, notably any scene with Ben Kingsley in it. The way some of his ‘terrorist ads’ looked was pretty cool, being psychedelicish with an ‘80s grind-house twinge. Ben Kingsley was pretty great, stealing every scene. It was strangely effective to see Ghandi as a terrorist (that is for you older readers who get the reference). There is a kid, Harley (Ty Simpkins) for about a half hour of the film who did not seem to be pulling contrived ‘cute-kid tropes’ like in many films that have kids. I am certain this is Shane Black’s doing, as the films he writes with kids in them (like Last Action Hero) seem real. The back and forth between Harley and Stark is fantastically done. I liked him so much that if Ty Simpkins does not appear in anything major after this, I will go around airports jugular-punching babies.
I spent the first three paragraphs of this review explaining my issues with the film and how Disney may be affecting the series. I do this to warn them of both waning critical and commercial audiences. People do eventually grow sick of watching the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Taking risks is something that needs to happen. My personal favorite superhero, Antman, is currently in pre-production with the fantastic director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) attached. That movie is a risk as its title character is not exactly the biggest in the world (pun intended). The fact that the film is apparently happening is great news. However, until I hear word of actual production, one cannot be sure it is actually happening. Disney, you better mix up the formula. Although it has not yet hit, when audiences grow bored of seeing the same thing repeatedly, it will hit hard.
Despite all the negativity I have written (about 90% of this review thus far) the film does still succeed. It has not quite worn its welcome. The acting talent all seem charismatic, working their hardest to make sure all the pieces fall into place. Shane Black’s eight year hiatus as a director was far, far too long. The film does not hit with the same impact as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Lethal Weapon, but the audience greets his return with open arms. Now that he has done a big-budgeted film for the biggest production company, he should probably go back to smaller works like his previous directorial effort. Even if he does not do that, I eagerly await his next project, whatever it is. Guy Pearce’s character seems to be a continuation of his from Prometheus (a really strange thing to write in an Iron Man 3 review, but it is true), which fits in surprisingly well in the film.
Have I mentioned that Ben Kingsley is fantastic in the film?