Iron Man 3 (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Paramount) Running time: 130 minutes approx.
In 1999 wealthy playboy industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) humiliates a nervy disabled scientist Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) when he tries to get Stark onboard with his mechanics programme AIM. Fast forward to the present day and the US is under threat from a Middle Eastern terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey) at the same time an unusual suicide bomber destroys the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. After a brash Stark goads the Mandarin, his house and all of his work is destroyed in an attack. No with nothing left, Stark has to rebuild his empire to face the Mandarin while a more sinister threat looms closer to home.
Since arriving on the big screen in 2008 the Iron Man franchise has proved to be a lucrative one for Marvel as well as cementing Robert Downey Jr’s triumphant comeback in cinema after his much publicised ignominious downfall. After the inevitable sequel scored big a third instalment was commissioned after the Marvel ensemble hit from 2012 Avengers Assemble and proof that striking while the iron (man) is still hot is profitable, this film has so far made over $1.2billion dollars worldwide.
As someone who wasn’t overwhelmed with the first two films, hopes weren’t especially high for round number three yet it proved to be the most entertaining of the trio. The story is different this time, switching the role of Stark/Iron Man as someone who is not just a defender of the people but a man with revenge on his mind. He also loses everything early on, being forced to make do with limited resources and prototype Iron Man suit that assembles itself around his body in parts via an internal magnetic system. This brings out a pseudo-philosophical element to the plot as Stark is forced to wonder if it is him or the suit that makes him a hero or are they one in the same? Don’t worry, it doesn’t get too bogged down with trying to appeal to the intelligentsia, this is a popcorn blockbuster all the way.
At first it seems as though the intent is to play on the fears of the US of a second 9/11 by having a Middle Eastern type protagonist, complete with long beard, sending unambiguous video threats to the US, decrying capitalism and the superficial nature that is pervasive within American society. This leads to War Machine, piloted by Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), receiving a red white and blue make over and being rechristened Iron Patriot. While they make fun of this in the film you just know someone somewhere loves this idea for real. In fact the Mandarin is the conceit of the film as he shares the villainous spotlight with Aldritch Killian who, wouldn’t you know it, is now a handsome and successful guy who tries to woo Stark’s girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
When Chez Stark is destroyed by The Mandarin with Pepper and a former love Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) on the missing list, Stark finds himself in Tennessee where his saviour is a precocious ten year-old boy named Harvey (Ty Simpkins). While the suit named JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany) is recharging Stark is forced to go back to basics to re-arm himself as he tries to prevent The Mandarin’s next attack, which would be a lot easier of a mysterious group of indestructible fiery mutants weren’t hunting him down.
There is a lot going on in this film but thankfully it is all easy to follow and if we are to be honest many of the plot twists are fairly easy to spot early on. As before Stark is a wisecracking smart guy but here, for the first time is truly aware of his own mortality, yet he still can’t stop with the one liners. Not that humour is unwelcome in these films but it gets to the point that this feels more like it should be a straight up comedy than an action film. Unsurprisingly the $200 million budget means the action is as spectacular as humanly – or rather CGI-ly – possible with some impressive party pieces for our metallic hero to dazzle us with. The big mid-air rescue scene comes to mind the centrepiece of the big stunts. Unlike the second film we are treated to a climactic battle rather than the damp squib we got last time which throws in a couple of neat new tricks and big surprise.
Downey Jr is once again at home as Stark, and looking at the behinds the scenes features on the Blu-ray extras, this may be the closest thing to his own personality. While the wise cracking never stops it would have been nice to see a bit more of the human side of Tony Stark which would have rounded the character off nicely. It what must be a miracle, director Shane Black actually manages to make the uber-bland Gwyneth Paltrow as the equally bland Pepper Potts interesting for about two minutes in this film, although I won’t spoil how. Don Cheadle is pretty much a black Tony Stark but with more military honour while Guy Pearce hams it up a bit too much as Aldritch Killian, being just a false beard away from the whole pantomime villain. Finally Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin is quite a unique turn but to say anymore would spoil things.
Purely because of their unashamed mainstream aspirations and unpretentious desire to entertain on the simplest level possible, superhero/comic book films feel as though they should be critic proof and for many people they are. For sheer bloody minded escapist entertainment Iron Man 3 is as good an example as any of when the big budget, mindless bombastic blockbuster works. It’s not perfect but as cinematic eye candy it surpasses its two predecessors which is good enough for this reviewer!
Oh and stick around after the end credits…..
English 7.1 Dolby True HD
English 2.0 Audio Descriptive
French 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution
Russian 5.1 Dolby Digital
Flemmish 5.1 Dolby Digital
English, English SDH, Arabic, Bulgarian, Dutch, Estonian, French, Greek, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian and Ukraine Subtitles
Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black