Iron Man 3:
Genre : Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi
Running time : 130 min
Director : Shane Black
Screen writer : Drew Pearce , Shane Black
Actors : Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle
OFLC rating : M
Year : 2013
Language : English
Rating: 7.9/10 – 53130 votes
If a choice of superheroes must be made, I’ll take Robert Downey jnr’s wisecracking Tony Stark over Christian Bale’s growling Batman any day of the week. While the Iron Man films show respect for comic-book tradition, they also maintain an appropriately goofy tone, fondly mocking their hero – a billionaire inventor who flies around in a high-powered robot suit – for his vanity, petulance and overall absurdity.
Last year, Joss Whedon’s much-hyped superhero team-up The Avengers saw Tony battling extra-dimensional gods and monsters alongside the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans). This probably represented the best that can be done nowadays within the limits of the format – basically, a talky ensemble comedy punctuated with explosions.
One might expect a similar level of irreverence from Iron Man 3, directed and co-written by gifted vulgar postmodernist Shane Black, who’s been out of action since his inspired action-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (also starring Downey jnr) in 2005. As he proved there and elsewhere, Black has one of the most distinctive sensibilities in popular cinema – part old-fashioned romantic, part Hollywood insider, part snickering 12-year-old boy.
These qualities are present in Iron Man 3 to some extent, along with other recognisable Black tics (Christmas tunes, torture scenes, gratuitous use of the word “ficus”). But the film remains a factory product rather than anything more personal. Black’s love of the outrageous and profane has been curbed for the sake of younger viewers; the action sequences are mostly routine, with little gained by 3D; and the plot traces an over-familiar redemptive arc, where Tony must regain his humanity with help from his friends.
As we learn early on, the mind-blowing events of The Avengers have left Tony shell-shocked and prone to panic attacks (a logical development of Downey jnr’s ”wired” schtick). Meanwhile, a new enemy appears in the form of an ethnically ambiguous jihadist, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), whose latest bomb puts Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) in hospital.
Out for revenge, Tony unwisely invites his latest nemesis to go one on one at the cliff-top mansion-cum-laboratory he shares with long-term sweetheart Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). For her part, Pepper is so fed up with Tony’s moping she’s willing to be charmed by rival inventor Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a former tech geek who has reinvented himself as a 1980s-style corporate sleaze with slicked-back hair.
To solve the mystery that links Aldrich with the Mandarin, Tony has to head out on his own, at least as far afield as Tennessee. Still, the script is designed so he always has an audience for his wounded narcissism, whether it’s his friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Pepper, Happy Hogan, a hero-worshipping kid (Ty Simpkins) or simply the sentient computer Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) that controls his high-tech armour.
Even more than most superhero blockbusters, the Iron Man films are built around the paradox of a charismatic star who virtually disappears whenever the computer-generated action kicks in. Once Tony is locked into the suit, he could be anyone (despite occasional close-ups of his straining face). This explains why a hyper-verbal ironist such as Downey jnr is so perfect for the role: in a sense he’s able to stand back from the story, functioning as an observer-narrator like Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean saga.
To put it another way, Tony in his suit gets to feel powerful and safe at the same time, an infantile fantasy we’re winkingly invited to share. Black knows exactly what he’s doing and is willing to tell us so: in a final monologue, Tony explicitly refers to the armour as a “cocoon”. Of course, if he truly intended to get rid of his self-protective technology, the series would have to end – and if Downey jnr wants to break out of his own profitable rut, he ought to try a genre where artists are given a little more freedom.