Iron Man 3 Review

Review of: Iron Man 3
Paul McNamee

Reviewed by:
On April 24, 2013
Last modified:May 20, 2013


Anyone expecting a film on par with Favreau’s tepid servings is due a pleasant surprise: Iron Man 3 is, bafflingly, not just a great Tony Stark film but a great film, period. Heartfelt and thorough yet lean and effortless, it's nothing short of the best Marvel Studios film to date and a triumph for Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr.

65A2D61915C3577A15FE4812ED68C2 Iron Man 3 Review

I figure I’d best get this off my chest before we go any further: I think Iron Man and Iron Man 2 are awful movies. Sure, Robert Downey Jr.’s on a career high thanks to a defining role that’s carried him through three summer blockbusters to date, not to mention dotted appearances here, there and everywhere, but it’s a role that, Avengers excepted, has fallen squarely within the limits of pictures severely limited in scope and sizzle.

Jon Favreau’s two movies made bank because of the character they were built around, but it wasn’t until Joss Whedon got his hands on Tony Stark that said character, while already expertly and affably realized, found a movie worthy of his scenery-wolfing presence. With the news of Favreau’s departure and the hiring of the superb RDJ vehicle Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’s writer/director Shane Black, it finally seemed likely that we’d get a solo Stark outing worthy of the critical praise that Favreau’s films fell just short of. If Black’s involvement alone can be said to represent a treasured parcel in this battered metaphor, does Iron Man 3, deliver the goods? For a spoiler-free (Honest Injun) reaction, read on.

The best place to start is at the top, and towering above all in his ever-expanding canon is Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. After a pitiful stab at humanizing him with a flirtation with alcohol abuse in Iron Man 2, Black more than compensates by structuring the entire film around Tony’s growing insecurities. Iron Man 3 is a movie about obsession, retention and the very human and worth-exploring manner in which a scientist deals with the unexplained.

Events in The Avengers serve as a jumping-off point for where Tony’s at in this story, but avoiding the pitfalls of the typical summer threequel, Black eschews the traditional expansion of scope and instead focuses, at times claustrophobically, on the state of mind of our established genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. Stark spends the film quipping and quivering in equal measure, and just when you thought this might be the film to solidify the character’s overexposure he’s imbued with another layer, and unlike before it’s a layer that’s fully embraced and fully explored. Downey Jr. deserves the utmost credit for this but it’s the collaboration with Black that makes his every scene here that much more memorable than those of previous outings. The director wisely keeps Stark out of the suit for just enough time to make those moments when he actually IS Iron Man more worthy of the buzz. Curiously, he’s also keen to comment on the dichotomy at work which is something often afforded  time in such films, if not due delicacy.

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It helps, too, that he’s in such excellent company. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as the extremely likeable Pepper Potts, as does Favreau as Stark’s erstwhile bodyguard Happy Hogan. It’s the newcomers that inform the movie’s thespian standard, though, with Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce and a frankly unbelievable Ben Kingsley filling roles from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov’s mid-noughties Extremis storyline. While we’re discussing Kingsley, the likes of his and Kenneth Branagh’s involvement in Marvel movies really speaks to the gradual acceptance of comic books as the last great American art form on a much larger scale, and I’m glad we’ve got to a place in space where adaptations of classic stories are regular treats on the annual cinematic landscape. Of particular note, too, is 24’s James Badge Dale, who turns a standard hench-nasty role into an unforgettable turn of converted nervous energy and makes you wonder where he was all those years. Seeing Miguel Ferrer back on the big screen is a self-contained joy as well. Eclipsing them all, though, is Ty Simpkins as a boy Stark meets while exiled in Middle America in scenes that threaten the saccharine but never deliver. Easily, Simpkins’ and Downey Jr.’s scenes are the highlight of the movie.

Technically speaking the film is wonderful, too. We’ve come to expect a certain style from Marvel Studios and while Iron Man 3 doesn’t disappoint, it has the confidence to merge it with the inherent clash and resultant shocks that fall under the umbrella of A Shane Black Film. There’s a rare shot in the movie that doesn’t look splendid, and most commendably there’s an absolute lack of the classic rock that so cheapened the first two films’ soundtracks in favour of a good-old fashioned traditional score (courtesy of Bryan Tyler, making it three for three on the composer front) and an opening-credits cut that’s sure to have a certain demographic beaming.

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Now, I know I’ve listed a great deal of contributors there, and each offers some part in making this a movie built with the sorts of scenes I’ll really look forward to watching again. Honestly, after trying, there are more moments like that in Iron Man 3 than I can count. With that said, it’s at Shane Black’s door I’m laying my praise for this film. This is a movie in which you simply can’t ignore how the actors were directed, which makes for a refreshing change of prominence from the usual visual flair pushing nuance to the side. That’s not to say the film’s lacking in moments that’ll catch you off guard – I’ll admit to audibly gasping at least twice at the cinema this evening – but the pairing of character aesthetic with that bombast on which summers are built makes Iron Man 3 the rarest beast – an auteur superhero film. It’s not quite all-the-way Sin City, but it’s also free of the compromise that so often deflated The Avengers. Helps tremendously that, as predicted by our own Michael Briers, it’s set at Christmas, too.

I’ll tell you something else. I’m struggling to find something I didn’t like about it. I don’t think “that it ended” really counts. There’s one late set-piece in particular that almost had me groaning but by the time it had finished, the amount of little ideas that spun out of that one big idea and how expertly choreographed it all was had me rapt, my popcorn all but forgotten. I’m not sure it’s a perfect movie, not yet, but it seems like it’ll stand up to some heavy duty scrutiny.

Now, I get that there’s a lotta cats out there that really like those first two Iron Man movies. For them, this movie’s primed to blow minds. For those of us that felt a little left of satisfied, though, Iron Man 3 is all the more impressive. That a third movie in a series can this vastly outclass those that ran before it goes against everything we’ve learned from a hundred years of cinema. Add to that that it’s a perfectly functional singular work, rather than one third of a clearly structured trilogy, and you have a successor to The Avengers that deals just as well on the precedent-setting side of affairs as it does on the entertainment side.

Anyone expecting a film on par with Favreau’s tepid servings is due a pleasant surprise: Iron Man 3 is, bafflingly, not just a great Tony Stark film but a great film, period. Heartfelt and thorough yet lean and effortless, it's nothing short of the best Marvel Studios film to date and a triumph for Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr.
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  • edgar

    You obviously have something against certain filmakers i find people like strange creatures sigh… I think jon Favreau with chris nolan pushed what comic book films can do and yhe first iron man and the dark knight werent just great comic book movies they were masterpieces of blockbuster filmaking because it put great character development, narrative urgency and great acting in front of explosions. Although the dark knight more so then iron man but both will be reminding people that they changed comic book movies forever and i seriously doubt this is better then that with its over long length and stupid twist with the villain that will surely piss off every fan in the room.

  • edgar

    This guy thinks sin city is a superhero movie??! Please quit right now and do something else your lack of understand your own job is insulting. This movie is not half as rewarding as the first one and its okay compared to the second maybe even on par with it. Ya i guess the world revolves around your “superior” opinion because i have never met or heard of anyone not liking at least the first iron man to a degree but mister superior man here who doesn’t even understand his job correctly is right. Get a tee shirt that says im superior man please kick me in the balls because I dont need them.

    • Stephen Hart

      Sorry Edgar but I know several people who didn’t like the first Iron Man sufficiently not to watch the second. Personally I like the first and felt that the second had some good scenes but didn’t work as a cohesive film.

  • Sminglio Doblex

    Chill out guy. They’re just movies.

  • Stephen Hart

    I loved the lack of spoilers in the review whilst still being pretty in-depth. I’m more excited about the movie than I was before. I would have been interested to know what age group this movie would be suitable for but otherwise a great review.

    • Sminglio Doblex 2000

      I’d say the movie’s suitable for kids but certain scenes seem tailor-made for older audiences. Regarding spoilers, I figure trailers do enough to take the shine off films before we can even see them and I don’t want to add to that. Thanks for the kind words.

    • ASWin

      Yes, spoilers kill me.
      And this article instead of feeding them to me, raised my excitement. :)

  • tonyzhao

    wow,it looks so cool.i like Iron Man.

  • Negative_Return

    A hundred years? Frankenstein came out 82 years ago, lol

    • Sminglio Doblex 2000

      James Whale’s version did, but the first film version is 103 this year. Why bring up Frankenstein in the first place?!

      • Negative_Return

        James Whale’s Frankenstein was the first trilogy.

        • Sminglio Doblex 2000

          James Whale only made two Frankenstein films. I get what you mean though. I actually just meant that after roughly 100 years of cinema (in general) we haven’t much cause to be surprised anymore.

  • Me, Myself and I

    The only thing that should’ve ever gotten 4 and a half stars in this pile was Robert Downey Jr.’s beard ….. I mean, that thing’s amazing!-