Release Date: 25/4/2013
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, William Sadler
If there’s one thing that this phase of the Marvel franchise has excelled at, it has been in the pairing of director to material. Kenneth Brannagh brought a Shakespearean quality to the comedy and drama of Thor, while Joss Whedon worked the magic he’d created with large casts in Buffy and Firefly in last year’s incredibly successful The Avengers. Pairing Shane Black with Downey Jr is an inspired choice: after working together previously on the criminally underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, bringing Black’s fast-paced comedy stylings to motor-mouth Tony Stark seems like a match made in heaven. The final result preserves the fun and the comedy, but rather leaves out any kind of reason, logic or sense.
After the events of The Avengers, Stark is plagued by lingering memories of his near death experience at the hands of aliens and wormholes in New York. Unable to sleep due to his increasing anxiety, he passes the time by creating different Iron Man prototypes, which he is able to control via his mind. Or something: it’s not entirely clear. The situation is only made worse when international terrorist “the Mandarin” (Kingsley) arrives on the scene, whilst shady scientist Aldrich Killian (Pearce) concocts devious plans involving brains, regenerative cells and, erm, fire. And then a bunch of stuff happens: there’s so much going on and that many abandoned plot threads that in attempting to explain, the film only makes less and less sense.
It’s definitely a case of ‘think less, laugh more’, so thankfully it delivers on this front. Following in the tradition of Black’s previous efforts, it delivers as much on laughs as it does on action: if not more so. From fed-up henchmen, to Downton Abbey obsessions, silly passwords and the ingenious use of everyone’s favourite Eiffel 65 song, it’s the little touches that make Iron Man 3 the funniest instalment to date. Tony Stark is also back to being likeable again after his turn as “King of the Douches” in the misfire that was Iron Man 2, and so thankfully we have a central character we can once again relate to (as far as smug billionaires go, he’s at least infinitely charming and handsome). Also Pepper Pots (Paltrow) finally has actual stuff to do now after being a rather lack-lustre love interest, although this may just be another case of tokenism. The biggest surprise of all though is Kingsley’s Mandarin; at first seemingly another yawn inducing post-Joker/Bane bad guy, his storyline turns out to be something else entirely, and all the better for it.
It’s just a shame that nothing else really adds up. The villains and their lame conspiracy are unconvincing and entirely boring, the CGI at times feels incessant and overpowering, and the ending is flippant and irritating. Shane Black is hoping that you’re having far too much fun to notice, like a cat being distracted by a laser pointer. It is a complete mess, but one that’s incredibly enjoyable. Imagine you’re at an extremely messy, drunken party: get caught up in the moment, but for the love of God do not get sidetracked by the carnage you’ve left in your wake; that would be a mistake. Oh, and make sure you stay for the fun and ever-so-slightly lovely post credits sequence.