The latest superhero film to be released by Marvel Studios and directed by Shane Black, Iron Man 3 is the seventh instalment in the Marvel Cinematic. Sequel to both the Iron Man films and the recent Avengers Assemble, the film picks up after the events of Loki’s invasion with a haunted Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who, struggling to sleep, is having problems with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and is forced to sit back and watch his friend Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) take on the responsibilities of America’s iron-suited hero. When two old scientist associates, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), come back into his life, however, his personal world is destroyed as a threat from the terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) means that Tony must embark on a harrowing quest to find those responsible, leading him to answer the question that has secretly consumed him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
The first major release since Joss Whedon’s hugely successful crossover film Avengers Assemble, it was always going to be interesting to see how these individual stories would follow, and, in the end, whether we would miss the rest of The Avengers team or not. Personally, The Avengers didn’t even cross my mind, so much so that the constant references to an alien invasion in New York city last summer confused me. Iron Man 3 is a perfect follow-up to both of its predecessors, working as a confident solo return for Tony Stark but also as a step back to get us interested in the individual characters themselves again.
A large part of Iron Man 3‘s success is because of director Shane Black. As only his second film behind the camera, with his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring RDJ, being one of my favourite films, Iron Man 3 consists of many of Black’s brilliant film-making traits, the biggest being the way he combines action and comedy. Having co-written the script, Iron Man 3 is by far the funniest yet, probably even more so than The Avengers. Full of the sarcastic wit that we find so lovable about Tony Stark, the film is constantly hilarious, but another quality that Black manages to develop better is some of the relationships. By this, I especially mean Stark’s friendship with Rhodes, which was definitely something that needed to be worked on with the change of actors in the first two films. Just like the bromance Black directed between RDJ and Val Kilmer in KKBB, there was finally a relationship to enjoy between the two characters, which is what helped to bring a lot of the final scenes together.
The biggest way that Iron Man 3 differs, however, and a big contrast to Iron Man 2, which was seen as a bit of a flop to many superhero fans, not that I would agree, is that it puts more of a focus on Tony Stark himself rather than Iron Man. Whilst we’ve seen Iron Man fly confidently around in his iron suit for the first two films, this time around the billionaire playboy has taken a bit of a kick in the self-esteem. With his character stripped bare, we’re now made to feel sorry for Stark, something that seemed impossible to do beforehand. Not only because of the writing, this was also made possible because RDJ has taken on the role of Iron Man better than any other superhero, as it definitely seems like a character he was made for. This change of focus meant that we could better engage with the film, and it’s what also puts it back on par with the efforts of the first film.
More so, this third instalment also sees one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe. It’s hard to go into detail without giving away any spoilers, but both Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley are incredible in their own ways. Kingsley’s character, especially, gives the films one of its better twists. The way the story progressed was one of the qualities that impressed me most; at first I was worried that the trailers had ruined too much, but after seeing the film it was hard to believe how little they actually showed. There was so much that wasn’t even hinted at, as the film takes many different turning points to avoid being The Dark Knight Rises rip off that the trailers made it out to be, that the run time runs smoothly with how much actually happens. Taking more of a sci-fi turn, as well, this was something I struggled with at first as it was a huge difference compared to the somewhat believable first two films, but after Avengers Assemble, this latest instalment definitely needed to go that little bit further.
This also allowed for some brilliant CGI moments, as the action scenes were some of the best in the franchise. As always, these scenes were also accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack, opening with a song that reminds you why the Iron Man films are probably the best of the Marvel Universe straight away. The films have always been known for its rock anthems rather than its impressive score, but there’s a decent combination of them both this time around.
All in all, it’s definitely the best Iron Man film yet, and my second favourite Marvel film after Avengers Assemble itself. But will there be an Iron Man 4? We can only hope.