Last year's The Avengers pretty much blew all comic book movies out of the water, Joss Whedon's second feature film managed to put a group of comic book heroes into a film together, make it organic, entertaining and really really fun. Iron Man Three is the first 'normal' film since the fallout of New York, in Phase Two as Marvel refer to it, and compliments The Avengers and its own predecessors well. Previous director Jon Favreau makes an appearance as Happy, Tony's bodyguard, briefly, but the reigns have been handed to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black, and this is immediately apparent as the film takes place at Christmas. And has a voice-over. And it's a buddy film. And, and, and, it's well written, which the past two films can't attest to.
In this film, Tony is suffering from post traumatic stress following the wormhole and New York last year, and is spending a lot of time just building and refining the metal suit, whilst terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) begins a terrifying attack on America with some really powerful explosives. Meanwhile, old friend of Tony's Maya (Rebecca Hall) is trying to solve an important equation that could lead her and/or fellow scientist Aldrich (Guy Pearce) to fully realising the next step in genetic modification. Mean-meanwhile Tony's friend Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is living life in his own mech suit, now named Iron Patriot, trying to track down The Mandarin. It's convoluted, branching, full of characters, and it could all go down the drain real quick under lesser hands, but Black and co-writer Drew Pearce manage to piece together a light, though sometimes dark, and creative action blockbuster.
The smartest move the film makes is to deplete Tony of his toys early on, making act two an incredibly fun double act between Tony Stark the man and a young boy in a po-dunk town in the middle of America. He's all alone, the kid's an incorrigible fanboy, and the two of them don't see eye to eye, but the back and forth is insanely good, especially given how bad some young actors can be when handling overly stylised dialogue. Alongside this segment, we see Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Maya spend some time together, Pepper now a fully-fledged business-woman, Maya a super-smart scientist, genuinely having interesting and well crafted conversations that are so completely unrepresented in any kind of blockbuster, so what a treat here.
Whilst the film starts off a little too slow, a lot of things happen that don't involve Tony too quickly, leaving the audience to wonder what's at stake for him, truly, it all clicks in by the first half hour's end, and what follows is a truly fun, interesting, often wildly hysterical and really entertaining action picture, with some great twists and at least three really smartly designed action set-pieces, ranging from Downey Jr. schtick to full-blown CGI madness. The 3D of the film is rubbish, unfortunately, having seen it twice in 3D so far, there's very little depth or pushing out of the screen, and a lot of times some really nice details as seen in trailers just go missing. It's recommended to catch in 2D, which is a shame when The Avengers' 3D was best highlighted with Iron Man flying all around.
Iron Man Three starts well, with an Eiffel 65 classic that may not be Move Your Body but comes close, is full of wit, heart, charm and wonder, special effects that are weighty due to the performances and story, and Sir Ben Kingsley, who it's hard to really discuss on an open platform, is amazing as The Mandarin. His scenes are few, but he lingers with you. The voice, the look, the words, it's a great role made even better with some interesting writing, which might get fans a little miffed. On top of this, the film's score, by Brian Tyler, is some of the finest music for a film in a long time, maybe sitting alongside The Avengers in music as well as being a film as good as that. No mean feat, but Iron Man Three is the kind of blockbuster audiences all over will like. Smart, but silly, entertaining but weighty, great performances but plenty of explosions, and to cap the film off, the post-credit sequence, really really good fun.
Shane Black has managed to finish off the Iron Man trilogy, as best as one could imagine it ending, with the best of the series yet, complimenting last year's miracle of The Avengers with a Tony Stark story that is isolated yet feels like a companion piece, a whole story in its own right but still one part of a bigger universe, and very very very funny too. This may not be the last time an Iron Man film is made, but it may certainly be the best one they'll make.