Release Date: May 3, 2013
Director: Shane Black
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Film Pulse Score: 8/10
How do you follow up one of the biggest movies of all time? Marvel successfully orchestrated what they referred to as Phase One of the Marvel Universe. Over the course of four years and through four franchises the events of The Avengers came together in a near perfect symphony of comic book excitement. No one could have anticipated how well it did or how well it turned out to be. While The Dark Knight set the standard for transcending the genre, The Avengers attained lofty heights for how epic and fun a pure comic book film can be. After setting the bar so high in terms of scale and villains where do you go from there? Shane Black had the answer. Make it dark and make it personal.
Picking up some time after the events in New York City, things have changed a bit in Tony Stark’s life. His girlfriend Pepper is now handling the day-to-day business affairs for Stark Industries, Happy is now serving as head of security at Stark, Rhodes is working for the government while wearing his suit and Tony has become somewhat reclusive spending most of his time in the lab. On the surface he looks like he’s just shunning his responsibilities and playing up his devil-may-care persona. However in reality Stark is carrying deep psychological scars from his battle alongside The Avengers. He can’t sleep. He’s having nightmares. He’s suffering from anxiety. He’s scared. Meanwhile, a malevolent terrorist known as The Mandarin has the world in his grip but the one man everyone would expect to be there to stop him is doing nothing. This is not something you’d expect from someone who has just saved the world. This is the set up for Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 which proves to be one of the best in the Marvel Universe.
You’d think that after playing Tony Stark five times that the character would become a caricature. Thanks to Black’s screenplay and Downey Jr.’s acting this is the most human and flawed we have ever seen the hero and it is quite effective. New levels of depth, drama and character are explored in the latest entry that makes him more rounded then we’ve seen before. In Joss Whedon’s The Avengers we actually see Stark actually taking an interest in others and being supportive especially in the case of Bruce Banner. Here we see a man who is terrified by the thought of losing the ones he loves that it affects his ability to be who he is. Hands down this is Robert Downey Jr.’s best performance as Tony Stark to date.
Any comic book film is only as good as its villain. The Iron Man franchise has found its best in The Mandarin. He is sadistic, evil and lacks any moral compass. His goal is to gain power by any means necessary even if it means murdering innocent people around the world. Looking back at Phase One, at first glance it doesn’t appear as though any villain has ever taken the lives of innocent people. The Mandarin uses television to spread his message of fear. Jacking into the feed whenever he likes he leaves chilling messages or lays claim to recent terrorist attacks. He’s a very effective villain since you never know where he may pop up.
Shane Black has crafted a very entertaining adventure that features some great action sequences and quite a bit of humor. One thing taken away from The Avengers was not just how fun it was but how funny it turned out to be. Iron Man 3 is easily one of the funniest in the franchise. To counter the laughs he does allow the story to get quite dark not just in story but the tone as well. The hero is mentally unstable. The villain is a murderer. You see people getting killed. This is not the Iron Man of Phase One. This is Phase Two.
Black brings a great sensibility to the series by allowing Stark the opportunity to learn and grow from the events that have transpired. It opens up the book for some intriguing possibilities for future adventures. It’s a fun ride that is the best Iron Man since the first and probably the third best film in the Marvel Universe.