Dave’s Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Robert Downey Jr. is amazing as always as witty and confident Tony Stark
Very Funny
Great Special Effects
Not Your Typical Superhero Action Movie

The Bad:

Perhaps too similar to 80’s/90’s action films
A little too violent for a comic book movie
Not Your Typical Superhero Action Movie

Cast & Crew:

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Drew Pearce
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content

After two wildly successful Iron Man films, Director and Producer Jon Favreau (and Marvel/Disney) has turned the franchise over to action movie Writer/Director extraordinaire, Shane Black. Iron Man 3 is obviously the third movie in the Iron Man franchise and takes place after the events of Marvel’s Avengers movie. Unlike the over the top, comic-booky (I‘m almost certain that should be a word despite what my spell check says) villains in the previous Iron Man movies (an Iron-Suit-Clad, maniacally evil Jeff Bridges and Iron-Suit-Clad, electric-whip-wielding, and generally dirty looking Mickey Rourke), Tony Stark/Iron Man now battles the international terrorist group lead by The Mandarin. Played with great range by Sir Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin is an all too realistic modern-day-style terrorist who has taken credit for anti-American bombings across the world. After the terror strikes a little too close to home, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) issues a challenge to The Mandarin which ends in the destruction of Stark’s seaside mansion and general way of life. Stark is then left alone and with only his ingenuity and clever wit to solve the mystery, catch the bad guy, and prove that Tony Stark can be a hero without all of Iron Man’s hi-tech gadgety things.

Perhaps one of the biggest factors in the success of the Marvel comic movie series (besides an innate ability to make generally well made and realistic looking films…unlike DC’s Green Lantern…uggghh) is its focus on humor. These aren’t just stupid action movies. These are stupid action movies AND comedies. Shane Black’s witty, fast-paced, and verbose writing style is perfect for an actor like Robert Downey Jr. This movie was far funnier than I would have expected from an action movie. There is no doubt about it, Robert Downey Jr. makes this movie. I’m not sure you would see this franchise be as successful if there were another actor inside the big metal suit. His charming, quick wit make him absolutely perfect for the role of super-rich, super-charming tech genius Tony Stark. Aside from Downey Jr., the acting is all-around solid. Gwyneth Paltrow returns with a larger and more integral role as Stark Enterprises CEO and Tony Stark love interest, Pepper Potts. Don Cheadle also does well in his expanded buddy-cop-type role as Air Force Colonel James Rhodes. Guy Pearce, a very talented actor who doesn’t work enough in my opinion, does a  nice job in his role of scientific genius and Tony Stark antithesis of sorts, Aldrich Killian.

If you have seen any of the Shane Black films from the late 80’s/early 90’s you can certainly see the similarities reflected in this movie. Like other Shane Black movies, Iron Man 3 is set during the  Christmas season…for some unknown reason… (See: Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight), it uses voice-over dialogue to establish the plot and set a slightly light-hearted, self-aware tone (See: the Film Noir influenced Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is a very underrated movie. If you like this movie, and you like Robert Downey Jr., watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang…like tomorrow), and of course there are kidnappings, lots of explosions, destruction of property and shootouts (See: Every Shane Black movie ever made). All of this may seem to be the calling cards of a stupid action movie, but Black’s ability to slyly wink at the ridiculousness of his own action-based specialty is what makes his films stand apart. There is a great scene towards the end of the film where Tony Stark and Col. Rhodes have a great exchange about Stark being out of ammo during a shootout and Rhodes not having compatible ammo to give him. Most action movies gloss over this type of detail, but this movie brings the issue to the forefront in a humorous and self-aware way, almost making fun of the over-the-top shoot out scenes.

There is perhaps a very fine line between a style of referential self-parody and just plain lazy writing…and to be honest I’m not entirely sure in which category I would place this movie. I don’t want to be too critical because I really did enjoy the film, but it did very much come across as a Lethal Weapon movie with Tony Stark cast as Riggs and Col. Rhodes playing the Murtaugh role. I was frankly a little surprised not to hear Rhodes character proclaim that he’s too old for this…stuff. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call this the third best Lethal Weapon film . Again, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie a lot, but it did seem perhaps a little unoriginal when you compare it to Black’s famous movies of the late 80’s/ early 90’s. It’s clear that Black does action movies well and his writing style and general action movie stylings are certainly on display in this film.

Something strange does seem to  happen when you hand a successful 80’s/90’s era action writer/director the reins to a successful and modern comic book movie franchise. It seems perhaps silly to say, but I found this movie to have a bit of a disturbing tone in terms of how the violence was portrayed. This may seem like a strange statement coming from a guy whose favorite movies (which include Fight Club,Goodfellas, and anything by Quentin Tarantino) tend to be on the violent side. With the use of hi-tech bombs, bullets, lasers, and missiles, the Iron Man series hasn’t been particularly shy about  portraying violence in previous installments. However, something just didn’t sit right with me when you take Tony Stark out of the big metal suit and give him a hand gun…I don’t know why… it just seemed too real. In humanizing the god-like Stark/Iron Man, the tone of the movie is changed drastically. This is no longer your typical all-powerful superhero fantasy film…which could be good and bad I suppose, depending on what you are looking for in your superhero movies. I guess in my head I see a clear difference between comic book violence with fantastic futuristic weaponry (which is what I expect out of an Iron Man movie) and a beaten and bloodied, anxiety-ridden hero escaping from captivity by shooting 50 terrorists (that may be an exaggeration, I didn’t keep count) with a hand gun. This is a PG-13 movie, so even though lots of people were shot it wasn’t really gory at all. It is, however, certainly the most raw and violent of any recent comic book movie.

All that being said, this movie gets a solid “A” grade from me. You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy this movie, in fact you don’t even really need to have seen the previous two Iron Man movies. It’s a good standalone action movie with great special effects and a very funny script. As the PG-13 rating would suggest, I would think twice about taking younger children, but go see this movie if you are looking for an action packed and entertaining popcorn film. It’s a great opener to the summer blockbuster movie season.

*A side note for the extra nerdy: It’s best not to think about why other members of the Avengers weren’t available to lend a hand in thwarting this super villain while Iron Man is left alone and vulnerable… Because it isn’t at all addressed in the movie…even though the Hulk could have easily smacked around these bad guys and called it an early day for all involved.

Dave Bernard (5 Posts)

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