And so the Summer Blockbuster season of 2013 begins with ‘Phase 2’ of Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe with ‘IRON MAN THREE’ (yes not ‘IRON MAN 3’). The real difference though is A) It’s following the third highest grossing film of all-time (and fastest to a Billion Dollars) of ‘The Avengers’ this time. And B) this is not directed by ‘Iron Man 1 or 2’ director Jon Favreau. Duties instead go to the film’s also co-writer (along with Brit Drew Pearce), of Shane Black. YES SHANE BLACK! As in the guy in ‘Predator’ with the glasses. As in the guy who wrote the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series and ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’, and made his directorial debut with the brilliant ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ back in 2005 (that also has a then returning from his third(?) stint in rehab of one Robert Downey. Jr – the now ‘Hollywood Comeback Kid’).
Black’s influence is evident all over this film. From the get go the story is based over the Christmas Eve period (ala ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ & ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’), Tony Stark has a kid friend, who helps and guides him on his quest (again ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’) and narrates to the audience throughout the film (again a story trope from ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’). There is also a final set piece based set around a dockyard (like ‘Lethal Weapon 2’). However the most celebrated out of the references is that of the partnership between Downey. Jr and one Don Cheadle. There exchange, particularly in the out of suit action parts, feel like it’s the long mensioned ‘Lethal Weapon’ remake you are watching due to the dry humour and the sharp character interplay they have with one and other. Most of the humour though is very British and to a younger target (and probably anyone outside the UK) will have it ‘flown over there heads’.
I’m not saying it’s perfect though. Some Marvel Comic fans will not like the characteristics of one characters*, the bad guys themselves (while yes they are come across as a threat something with ‘Iron Man 2’ had a hard time establishing) it personally felt like a ‘T2’ liquid Terminator rip off (however that criticism could be more based at the films source material of the ‘Extremis’ comic-arc something which has never been my favourite ‘Iron Man’ story I’ve read). Also there are at times too many characters. For example Rebecca Hall (who I think is very talented and look forward to in next year’s Wally Pfister’s ‘Transcendence’) is underutilized, and the whole interesting idea of Stark’s post-dramatic stress seems to just disappear by the midway point of the film, and towards the end not only have you got the toy commercial suits (however it is a Blockbuster film I guess – its need to sell toys as its the business model) but everything feels a stuffed and just placed in more to satisfy fans on forums over past vocal criticisms of the past films, making a little unevenness in tone. There is also some rather amusing plot holes as well, with how he travels from one end of America to the other in a night in his Audi (also in a ‘Iron Man’ film) and the kid (who’s great in it) doesn’t recognise Tony Stark even though his face is on front of the paper and him indicated that he’s read the article on his apparent death.
As it is though it’s not going to everyone’s ‘’cup-of-tea’’ (arguably the isn’t much ‘Iron Man’ action) but I tell you I found it a lot of fun – a comic book come to life with likeability drawn from both Downey and (in fairness a female empowering) Gwyneth Paltrow. And if this is indeed ‘the end’ (I doubt it but does help me conclude my thoughts on here) then it leaves on a highly entertaining note indeed. Good start indeed to ‘Phase 2’, and the Summer Blockbuster season!
*Regarding the plot twist (this coming now with a huge SPOILER ALERT) I didn’t mind it. I think the whole thing of the Mandarin being a actor is more a in-joke to Ben Kingsley character playing these Fu Machu-type character, and him being a trained thespian. The issue I think is maybe it’s too cleaver and doesn’t belong perhaps in this pulp comic book tone the film has. The idea is smart (with the idea of the media having a set idea with what a terrorist looks like and its iconography, and sending it to the audiences, to think that also), and the idea does work with how old fashioned (and racist) the character is.