Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been suffering severe withdrawals. It’s been an entire year since The Avengers took the world by storm, a period of time that has proved far too long for those itching to see where the architects over at Marvel are going to take their shared universe. Thank God the wait is over; a “Waiting for Phase Two” drinking game would’ve been imminent if I had to wait much longer. Thankfully, Marvel delivers again. The first entry in Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the first Iron Man film NOT directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man 3 is not only the strongest installment in the trilogy, but it also features Robert Downey Jr.’s most captivating performance to date. Thanks to director Shane Black, this super-charged threequel makes a welcome shift in both tone and style while still retaining the spirit of an Iron Man film. Memorable performances, snarky humor, and an incredible finale make Iron Man 3 a winner on all fronts.
Following his close shave with death in The Avengers, Tony Stark(Robert Downey, Jr.) tries to distract himself from the trauma by building new suits and gadgets day and night, consequently pushing his girlfriend, Pepper Potts(Gwyneth Paltrow), away and drawing his enemies closer. And with a new threat emerging in the form of a terrorist known as The Mandarin, Stark will need all the help he can get if he’s to overcome this storm.
RDJ is Tony Stark, and anyone hoping to fill those shoes should go find more productive things to do. No one has ever become a character the way he has, and his performance in Iron Man 3 further confirms this.
Previously, Pepper Potts had always watched from the sidelines as Tony fought his enemies, but her time as his cheerleader is over. Pepper Potts fans will be pleased with her larger role, and will even get to see her in action towards the end. Paltrow seems unaccustomed to her extended screen time at first, but quickly turns it around and delivers a knockout performance.
Don Cheadle also enjoys more time in the spotlight, and instantly becomes the perfect buddy to Downey, Jr.’s cop. Cheadle is as perfect as War Machine(or the Iron Patriot, rather) as Downey, Jr. is as the titular hero. He is the sidekick every superhero needs: skilled, loyal, and not afraid to show up his partner every once in a while.
Ben Kingsley, as usual, left me in awe, and I found myself wishing he showed up more often than he already had. He does such a great job in a role he was born to play, and I’m thrilled at how he portrays The Mandarin. Guy Pierce also proves to be a welcome addition to an already incredible cast, presenting the villainous Aldrich Killian as a man set in his ways and hell bent on taking down Tony Stark.
While the acting couldn’t have been better for this kind of movie, it’s the film’s boldness that stands out above anything else. The film unapologetically takes chances no one ever dreamed it would take, and the finished product actually benefits from it. Jon Favreau played it safe and stuck to what he knew with the first two(which were identical in tone and style), while Shane Black goes the opposite direction. Stark’s humanity and vulnerability are thoroughly explored here, deviating from Favreau’s “Got a problem? Then suit up!” solution. Black’s film is very much a Tony Stark Survivor special. Instead of having a suit to jump into and save the day, Stark is stripped of his gadgets and forced to rely on his cunning, intellect, and unparalleled resourcefulness to defeat his adversaries.
As much fun as Iron Man 3 is, I couldn’t help but notice that it’s a bit uneven. It hovers somewhere between Lethal Weapon and Iron Man, displaying qualities of one at some points and qualities of the other the rest of the time. It would have been an even stronger film if the filmmakers decided on one style and stuck with it, instead of switching back and forth.
Other than that, Iron Man 3 stands as one of Marvel’s best films, and if the rest of Phase Two is as strong as its opener, it’s a safe bet that these movies won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.