Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Heavy Metal? Iron Man Three Review

Earlier today it was announced that Robert Downey Jr. may have been spotted lunching with the a few key Disney bigwigs, likely to discuss whether or not his contract as a certain Tony Stark is to be renewed. It’s pretty well known that, over the past five years, RDJ’s salary for the role has grown exponentially, reaching awe inspiring heights by the time of last year’s Avengers Assemble. But then, Avenger’s Assemble was one of the highest grossing movies of all time, and it looks like Iron Man Three isn’t going to fall too far behind either. Big investments for big charisma and even bigger returns – even to a foolish idealist like me; it’s a no-brainer. If, however, this latest addition to the ever-expanding ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ does happen to be Downey Jr.’s final fling with ol’ Shellhead, it’s certainly a higher note to bow out on than previous efforts would have suggested. Shane Black’s turn in the driver’s seat continues down that winning line first paved by Favreau (and subsequently tarnished), later gilded by Whedon, and brings with it a healthy dose of 80s buddy action.

Taking place almost immediately after Avengers Assemble, Iron Man Three already does one better than its predecessors in actually feeling like an organic continuation of the franchise at large, whilst still giving its focal figure a (sort-of) sturdy narrative of his own. Having narrowly dodged consignment to oblivion at the climax of that last adventure, Tony’s dalliance with the Iron Man armour has become a total fixation, with the line up shifting from Mark VII right up to Mark 42 by the start of this latest foray. Yet whilst Tony anxiously tries to prepare himself for the unknown future, it’s a few key figures from his past that seek to ruin him; namely, former cripple-turned-handsome-super-scientist Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) and the shadowy Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an enigmatic terrorist who leads the elusive Ten Rings faction previously alluded to in the first two features.

Whilst much of the marketing material, and the film’s own premise, have suggested a rather dark turn more in keeping with the recent Batman and Spiderman adventures, in reality, Iron Man Three is simply a maturation of its previous formula. This is still full-on action comedy, it’s simply had the dial turned up slightly – the jokes are wittier, and the punches harder; both of which are breaths of fresh air after the cringeworthy two hour lightshow that was Iron Man 2. Tony may be taken (literally) taken to the bottom before the midway point, but by the film’s end, Shane Black’s influences are less The Dark Knight Rises, more Die Hard with a Vengeance. Much of this of course falls on the capable shoulders of RDJ, but is also due to a renewed...weightiness in scripting from the Marvel house. The film still suffers some of the issues that plague this larger franchise generally; wavering plotlines and a muddled narrative buckling under the many demand it stresses upon itself, but Iron Man Three manages to come away feeling much more fully realised than say, Captain America or Thor, largely living up to its ambitions.

 For attentive comic buffs there are, as always, plenty of points to nerd over, and the late plot twist provides an angle these movies – for all their jocularity – sorely need to stop coming off so po-faced at the final hurdle. Like Avengers Assemble, Iron Man Three is a hot mess. But that’s a darn sigh more enjoyable than genre mis-fires like Thor, or the total lack of identity seen in Captain America. If this is a farewell to Tony Stark’s solo outings, it’s as good as could have been expected.