IRON MAN 3 review by Mark Walters – Shane Black injects 80’s buddy comedy flare to the franchise

IRON MAN 3 review by Mark Walters – Shane Black injects 80’s buddy comedy flare to the franchise


With THE AVENGERS shattering box office records and becoming one of the biggest movies of all time in 2012, Marvel has definitely set the bar high for themselves in the superhero film department. The IRON MAN franchise has already been very successful for the comic book company, and the third installment is easily many moviegoers’ most-anticipated films for 2013. This time around director Jon Favreau steps back and lets Shane Black helm the action, though Favs is still in the movie as his “Happy Hogan” character. Black is mostly known for his screenplays and snappy dialogue in films like LETHAL WEAPON, THE LAST BOYSCOUT, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and KISS KISS BANG BANG (which he also directed)… oh, and course the cult favorite THE MONSTER SQUAD. In taking on IRON MAN 3, he officially joins the league of blockbuster directors with huge budgets, though many (myself included) think the potential for recapturing magic with his KISS KISS BANG BANG star Robert Downey Jr. was the biggest thing this third installment had going for it.


IRON MAN 3 opens with narration by Robert Downey Jr. (much like KISS KISS BANG BANG did) as Tony Stark. It also opens showing us an event that happens later in the story (much like KISS KISS BANG BANG did). Cut back to Stark in 1999, where he met two people who would be important later in life, a genetic scientist named Maya Hansen (played by THE TOWN‘s Rebecca Hall) and a unappealing and nerdy scientific hopeful named Aldrich Killian (played by MEMENTO‘s Guy Pearce). Tony’s narration of the events ends with him saying something about how he created demons. Back to (somewhat) present day, at Christmastime, following the events of THE AVENGERS, where Stark flew a giant warhead through a wormhole into space, defeating aliens attacking earth – if you didn’t see THE AVENGERS, then yes, I just spoiled it for you… and seriously, if you haven’t seen it by now, why are you reading this review, much less planning to see IRON MAN 3? Honestly. Anyway, Tony’s little adventure with the heroic team has left him with self-doubt and anxiety attacks. He doesn’t sleep, grows distant with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and has left everyone in his life to do their own thing, basically by just shutting them out. Potts now runs Stark Industries with Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) as her over-eager head of security. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) now works for the U.S. President (William Sadler), with his War Machine armor from IRON MAN 2 painted red, white and blue, and now dubbed The Iron Patriot. An Osama Bin Laden-esque figure named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has started popping up on TV, threatening the U.S. and causing many to worry. The President states Iron Patriot will help fight this threat, but there’s a lot more going on behind The Mandarin than anyone realizes. When Aldrich Killian shows up to visit Pepper Potts, she immediately notices he’s not the nerdy and partially crippled man she once knew. He offers her a shot at partnering on a new technology that promotes healing abilities, but Pepper sees it as potential to be used for war purposes. When an unexpected weapon hurts someone close to our heroes, Tony vows vengeance against The Mandarin, but how can he fight a threat with weapons deadlier than anything even he could design?


THe script by Shane Black and Drew Pearce (NO HEROICS, PACIFIC RIM) makes the absolute most of its dialogue, giving Robert Downey Jr. some of his best and most effective lines to date as Tony Stark. Much of it feels like classic quotable lines from your favorite action films of yesteryear, and it’s clear Black wanted to give this a throwback style. There are even moments late in the movie with Downey Jr. and Cheadle toting guns, in plain clothes, sneaking into the villains lair… and it all of a sudden seems like you’re watching a LETHAL WEAPON movie, or any classic buddy cop comedy. Not all of the movie is like that, but the parts that are have a certain charm to them. There’s even a section of the story where Tony has to partner with a lonely kid, and while I normally hate the forced inclusion of kids like this in action stories, Shane Black somehow makes it work. Ty Simpkins (INSIDIOUS) plays the boy in question, named Harley, and is in many ways like a young wannabe Tony Stark. He also helps provide some of the best exchanges Tony has in the film – again, feeding into the “buddy comedy” element the film has. Guy Pearce has fun playing the suave and competent competitor to Stark, looking good and reminding us just how solid of an actor he can be when given the right material. Ben Kingsley appears to be indulging himself greatly as The Mandarin, a character that has great elements of mystery and even some fantastic surprises to it. Gwyneth Paltrow again plays the disapproving Pepper, but there’s a good arc with her here, and she gets to do some rather unexpected things in the story. Also effective is James Badge Dale as Killian’s right hand man, who is a formidable force of evil to our heroes, and convincingly evil. The only characters that suffer are Don Cheadle’s Rhodey and Rebecca Hall’s Maya, both of who get minimal screentime, and seem to be there only to serve the moments surrounding other more important roles. Hall is great with the right material, but here she’s more of an afterthought, basically a means to an end for the Aldrich Killian storyline. Cheadle’s moments with Tony are phenomenal, but they’re sadly too little too late in the film. Thankfully Black makes sure Rhodey gets to kick butt in very cool ways, so at least when he is on screen he’s getting to make the most of it. There’s already talk of a possible Rhodey spin-off film, and the way he’s portrayed here (however brief) makes that idea somewhat exciting.


At 130 minutes, the biggest problem with IRON MAN 3 is that it really feels long. The pacing is rather slow at times, and some of the action sequences (as cool as they are) tend to go on a little longer than they should. But it’s all so cool to look at, and the sensibilities of Shane Black help give the franchise a much-needed breath of fresh air. This feels like a different IRON MAN movie from what Favreau did in the first two outings, and the change may prove to be a very smart move. As much as I liked the first IRON MAN, the second movie felt like an overly-ambitious mess. This one manages to be bigger and better, while still taking it back to basics. There’s a very old school feel to the narrative, and the overall experience is a fun time at the movies. What’s perhaps most impressive is how Black made the film dark in tone, but injected enough humor and excitement to where kids can still enjoy it with adults. It will be interesting to see where things go from here, as there’s a definite sense of finality to the ending, and I think it would be very hard to make a fourth outing, especially now. This feels like the end of a trilogy if it was just a trilogy. That said, the very last words after the credits (and yes, there is a fun post-credits scene), in James Bond fashion, are “Tony Stark will return” – likely that return will be limited to THE AVENGERS 2, but I’d gladly watch RDJ play this role several more times if he’s willing… just let Shane write the words.

IRON MAN 3 is set to fly into theaters on Friday, May 3, 2013

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.