Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. first worked together on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, a detective noir action comedy that sparked the fuse box on Downey’s resurgence back into the world of film, reminded people of Black’s quirky talents and also gave Val Kilmer a life line. This time they have a few more million(more like 200) to work with. The director and star are teamed back together here in the second sequel to Iron Man, and the result is one of the most kickass highly enjoyable films you will see in 2013. If you go in expecting the Christopher Nolan chapter of Tony Stark, you will be very disappointed.
Comedy is also never forgotten here and is the signature blend of any Tony Stark story. Black and RDJ keep things light and snarky, while pulling the story of our genius billionaire turned hero to another level with a credible story. Connecting Stark’s current state of anxiety with flashbacks to 1999 and the ending of Avengers lingering in his mind(you may have some panic attacks if you nearly died saving the world from a fleet of aliens storming New York’s skyline), this movie places Stark in his comfort zone, which turns out to be discomforting self-doubt and pure introspection.
As we saw in the first film and in tiny shades of the second film, the Iron Man films are at their best when showing the vulnerability of our hero and his awkward predicament. Built with the tools and the brain to fight the good fight, Tony has a bout again here with identity. Who is he? A superhero or a genius billionaire who doesn’t understand the effects of hero duty. He’s learning right before our eyes how to handle the job. This is where Black and Downey Jr. pull the ace from their deck and stand out. Stark’s struggle with being Iron Man. Downey Jr. is so skilled at playing dual emotions inside a single scene and Black frames the camera around his anguish. Deep in the heart of a summer action blockbuster is a ticking heart and there happens to be some pieces of shrapnel around this one. Downey Jr. and Black give Iron Man a soulful presence that was lacking part 2 and that is the key ingredient here.
Plenty of things have been said about Downey Jr.’s talents as an actor and are warranted. He is becoming a dual threat, part thespian and part powerhouse movie superstar. After three films in Stark’s skin, he is the definitive action hero because he is so deft at balancing emotions and strikes the hottest when using his deadpan rapid fire delivery. Stark’s interactions with a kid in Tennessee during his recovery have the fresh humor of a protégé/master film and Downey Jr. is great here. His stroke of genius is laying out the jokes and smirk gag humor but throwing in the instant conviction of a struggling hero and having fun with it. It’s cool to watch and original. Downey is the heart and soul, an endless vessel of versatility. When Nolan casted Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, he started something and it continued with Downey Jr.. He balances humor and drama better than most. Pearce endures himself to villain territory and is effective as the rival mind in Tony’s world. Kingsley’s bad guy has a few different layers to his character and Paltrow gets more to do here than just look pretty.
The usual high tech wizardry of special effects is on full display. Stark busts out new toys here and they create the kind of thrills we’ve come to expect in an Iron Man film. The script includes a few good surprises to keep the casual viewer involved. There are things that happen that you don’t see coming happen and that makes this third installment fresh and unpredictable. The surprises will delight cinema and comic book fans alike. Iron Man 3 is an old fashioned crowd pleaser.
There are a few setbacks. The running time does feel a tad long and the ending has a few rounds included which keep you waiting for the resolution. Don Cheadle is the weak link in the cast again. Something about him doesn’t fit right with Rhodes, and that is hard to understand because he is an outstanding actor. The switch from Terrence Howard(my preferred actor for the role) to Cheadle never really worked. These are minor misgivings to tinker with but overall the film is strong and relentless.
Why should you see this right now? Iron Man 3 is an unpredictable funny high energy ride which kicks off summer just right. It’s not heavy or sad and never dull. It never forgets to keep things light and entertaining. This is not Chris Nolan territory. It’s not even close and the mood fits its central character. Writer/Director Shane Black keeps things rolling here while producing a glorious dish of sophisticated eye candy. Go out and get a look for yourself. You may see me sitting next to you because this is definitely a film worth revisiting for seconds before it leaves theaters.