I see and hail Shane Black's Iron Man 3 a highly entertaining but instantly forgettable barrage of colour and noise - Iron Man 3 Review

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

The Establishing ShotTo be honest I don't have a whole lot to say about Iron Man 3. As you have by now heard it is an immense amount of fun, a rip roaring yarn and its quick fire wit will have you smiling the whole way through. It is a fitting end to the Iron Man 3 trilogy and genuinely entertaining but it's not perfect - it has Stan Lee's shortest blink-and-you'll-miss him cameo, there is no Black Sabbath Iron Man playing on the soundtrack, not even a rif and worst of all it doesn't have Hulk smashing anything. Oh and it is instantly forgettable.

Marvel's Iron Man 3 is the first huge blockbuster out of the gate for 2013 and marks the official beginning of the UK Summer (of film, that is) which is ram packed with comedy, superheroes, action, romance and drama. Which pretty much sums up Shane Black's Iron Man 3.

However if you insist on more - read on. I was one of the fortunate few who got to see Iron Man 3 ahead of its release and as a longtime comic reader I have to say it was a pleasure to watch.

Going in to see the first Iron Man I had little expectation and it absolutely blew me away with its well crafted high entertainment factor and completely energised me with regards to comic to screen adaptations. Sure it had an incredibly lame villain but- up until then comic to film adaptations were pretty much hit or miss and the best adaptations we had were fairly dark and adult - but Iron Man changed the game and opened up a new way of doing things. Balancing humorous charm with high action.

They made a film that above all else, perfectly captured the experience from my youth of reading a comic (just better) and to be honest there were moments when I was taken right out of the film to stop, take a moment to look around and think:
I'm sitting here, in a cinema, watching a film based on a world that I spent a lot of time visiting as a kid. And everyone in the cinema is enjoying that world as much as I did/do.
It was a great shared experience and a day I never thought would come.

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Iron Man 3 Fan Boy Poster (Click to enlarge)
Growing up I only ever knew one kid who said that Iron Man was his favourite comic character, I'm pretty sure that has changed considerably with Marvel's dynamic films. And For Marvel to make these entertaining and wildly successful films is a testament to their hard work (as well as everyone involved) and the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. Without him Iron Man would be a different character. One of the reasons Iron Man works so well for me is that past the gadgets, past the fantastical adventures and characters there is supposed to be a brilliant genius that can build these incredible inventions (Iron Man 3 goes some of the way to tap into this) without that cornerstone you have a lot less, but Robert Downey Jr. has the charisma and quick with to suspend our belief and the confidence to make you forget that what you are seeing is make believe. Downey has forged a character that allowed Marvel built its cinematic universe on.

Video: The Establishing Shot: BRAND NEW IRON MAN 3 TRAILER - 25 APRIL 2013

Iron Man 2 may not have reached the heady peaks of the first and despite its flaws, the law of sequels and excess certainly playing a part in its slump. I was giddy watching it and there were still moments, admittedly fewer, where I paused to just enjoy the shared experience as a room full of strangers enjoyed the imaginary world on screen as much as I did reading the comics.

With Iron Man 3 Shane Black and Drew Pearce mash up themes from both the first and second films with fresh takes on them, there was no pausing to soak in the shared moments, some of this comes down to the audience being so different (these were not regular cinema going ticket buyers) these were mostly borderline hardcore "Marvel fans" (those that don't really read comics but have seen all the Marvel films) or film lovers who have a broader appreciation of the art of cinema, either way most of them have by now formed an opinion and expectations of what to expect from Marvel's films.

Secondly, this is the third outing for Iron Man and he may have lost a bit of its Epicness because of overexposure - how many times can we watch a genius billionaire smart ass his way out from being in over his head before you realise he is going to do it again? We have seen a lot of him and his escapades, as well as we have been exposed to Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble a pinnacle of the genre that extrapolates the entertainment at the core of Iron Man and we now have certain expectations of Shellhead and Marvel's entertainment offering.

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Iron Man 3 Tony Stark developing Iron Man armour Mark 47 (Click to enlarge)
Thirdly Iron Man 3 moves at a breakneck speed, take your eyes off the screen or pause and you'll miss something and get caught in an infinity trap as you try catch up.

I'm guessing Marvel was aware of my (as well as many other challenges of bringing a huge blockbuster to screen) first two points as early on they brought in Drew Pearce & Shane Black to bring the third Iron Man to screen. On a side note Shane Black is a bit of a hero of mine a guy that acted in Predator, made some of my favourite films and held the record for the highest value spec screenplay - is a legend in my books.

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Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr Tony Stark & remote armour (Click to enlarge)
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still suffering from the effects of the events in New York at the end of Avengers Assemble and is a bit of mess. Can I say - that is amazing - fallout from the group film has made its way into the individual films. Making both films instantly better.


Tony retreats into his garage and relentlessly works on new technology in hopes that it will make his world and the people around him safer. He is close to perfecting the remote armour (Mark 47) loosely based on the Extremis armour (although nowhere near as fluid) that we saw the inklings of in Avengers Assemble which has borne the Argonaut Armour which is exciting to see on screen and opens many possibilities.

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Iron Man 3 Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts Guy Pearce Aldrich Killian (Click to enlarge)

Peppa Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) continues running Stark Industries and trying to hold onto Tony as he slips further his obsession, this is not made any easier by A.I.M.'s Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) trying to woo Potts both romantically and in a business merger as well as a gorgeous former flame of Tony's popping up - Maya Hansen played by Rebecca Hall.

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Iron man 3 Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen (Click to enlarge)

Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is now the overzealous head of Stark Security and I have to say it fills me with joy to see Happy Hogan on screen and part of the new Iron Man canon, in the comics he took a bit of a back seat for most of the 80s/90s - but why it was decided to change him from pretty cool self assured Stark confident to Clouseau like bumbling mess is beyond me. Colonel James Rhodes's (Don Cheadle) War Machine armour has being rebranded as Iron Patriot and is being run all over the place by the government in unsuccessful attempts to halt a new threat that arisen targeting the United States.

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Iron Man 3 Don Cheadle as Iron Patriot (Click to enlarge)
Eerily mirroring actual events, Sir Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin is a terrorist with seemingly infinite resources and a militia to do his bidding, cloaked in mystery as he wages a guerrilla bombing war on the US - always keeping one step ahead of the authorities and out of reach. Tony is reluctant to get involved mainly due to his state of mind, but when events spill into his world, Tony takes some steps that puts himself on course for disaster as The Mandarin's master plan comes into fruition. They never see him coming.

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 Iron Man 3 The Mandarin Ben Kingsley (Click to enlarge)

Video: The Establishing Shot: IRON MAN 3 - NEW HD CLIP TONY CALLS THE MANDARIN OUT - 25 APRIL 2013

Marvel’s Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

If the Iron Man films were comics, Iron Man would be the comic that you bagged with a Mylar board and either put in one of your vault boxes, or display cases for safe keeping knowing that it will always be appreciated initially as mind blowing then gracefully slip into classic status.

Iron Man 2 would be bagged and slid into a standard comic box along with the rest of the series in chronological order. To be read as either context for the larger arc or a reference of certain characters and events.

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Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr Iron Man Falls (Click to enlarge)

Iron Man 3 would be the forgotten comic, the one where they brought in new writers and artists and allowed them to experiment a bit in hopes of bringing something fresh to the title but is removed from the core of what you enjoyed about the original Iron Man. The one that that they tried a whole lot of different stuff that was a lot of fun but you can't quite remember apart from one or two flashes of brilliance like the time Iron Man is almost destroyed because of his hubris and is saved by someone who always their for him and has his back (a running Shane Black theme) , like Sir Ben Kingsley's brilliant performance and pulling a rabbit out of the hat for his role as The Mandarin (watch out Baron Cohen), like the time Tony and an aspiring hero kid Harley (Ty Simpkins) have some of the best hero sidekick chemistry in a superhero film ever, like the time Iron Man pulls off a daring mid air rescue with an outstanding finale and the time Tony is held hostage and Shane Black's witty hostage - terrorist dialogue and set ups have you in stitches - but ultimately the Iron Man 3 comic will end up lying around under a pile of magazines in the forgotten hope that you'll re-read it one day and enjoy it as much as the first time, but it never will quite be as much fun or as interesting again.

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Iron Man 3 Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts (Click to enlarge)

I was swept away by Iron Man 3 and it is a truly entertaining film, everything we have come to expect from Marvel. The 3D was great, there were no irritating speed blurs or hiccups and certainly added to the immersive experience of Iron Man 3. This is the standard by which all 3D films should strive for. But the barrage of noise and colour are instantly forgettable as the entire film has little substance past the entertainment value and it is mostly played for laughs - in this respect it works very well. But it becomes apparent that Marvel have actively taken a stance on what is perceived as "real darkness" will not be part of their universe. In a complete antithesis of DC's approach to most of its big films.

Video: The Establishing Shot: IRON MAN 3 - MANDARIN ATTACKS 10880 MALIBU POINT, 90265 CLIP - 25 APRIL 2013

In the comics when Iron Man falls - it is into a deep vodka martini that has serious repercussions in his own world as well as the wider Marvel universe  In the film we are shown that Tony is falling apart but there is very little gravitas to this side of Downey's performance. I am not underestimating how difficult it is to be entertaining and funny to the entire spectrum that is represented by the expected audience for Iron Man 3. The Marvel team have obviously worked very hard to make this work and it does - but Tony's fall is perceived as little else than some plot stuff that happens to lead into the story, his climb back and reliance on his mental agility is also a little lost in the swirl of mad colourful and loud explosions and we never really get a feel for his depth at all - he is well and truly encased in armour and I don't think it's intentional.

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Iron Man The Mandarin Attacks Tony Stark's Malibu house (Click to enlarge)

The introduction of Warren EllisExtremis villains is a bold and mad move and should fit well with Iron Man's bold and exuberant storytelling but like the Extremis comics arc, it is a bit of a wasted opportunity as there is little exploration of these characters or their deeper genesis and the full impact of what are powerfully conflicted characters that could easily be iconic villains rocking the Marvel Universe is never fully conceived past their easy dovetailing into The Mandarin's agenda. Possibly Warren Ellis' story may have been courting controversy hence their never fully fleshed out depth but at least with the comics there is an understood shorthand that allows readers to pause and fill in gaps with their own imagination in the film they are painted as something quite different.

Shane Black and Drew Pearce creative collaboration has conceived the greatest 80s film ever made with both its weaknesses and strengths but bringing them into the Marvel fold gives them an ideal playground to create and develop. As with Black's previous works he draws on similar tropes for Iron Man 3 and we get a bit of narration, a buddy partnership (however Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr's quick fire with relationship dynamic is overshadowed by the pretty special Downey Jr and the young Ty Simpkins relationship), a bit of a mystery that unfolds as our hapless detective hero works out what is going on, the obligatory smart ass scene where our hero is held captive and mentally runs rings around his captors, the locations are straight out of the Shane Black 80s playbook. Oh yes its Christmas again and it all comes together in a delirious delight of loud noises and spectacular colour that climaxes with Tony Stark and James Rhodes without suits hopelessly outnumbered and more than just their loved ones at stake.

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Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark & Don Cheadle as James Rhodes (Click to enlarge)
Iron Man 3 is a fitting finale to pause the franchise, as it is sadly in need needs a bit of a break and refresh I'm sure Iron Man will return for Marvel Crossovers but it's never clear whether this is the final Iron Man film or not - as it ends rather ambiguously but given the full throttle not leaving much for later on speed that the trilogy has been moving at since day 1 a bit of quiet time to reflect would probably be a very good thing. As Tony tells an all powerful villain that has just bashed him onto the ropes "Smart guys always have a plan".

Before seeing Iron Man 3 I would recommend rewatch both Iron Man and Iron Man 2 as well as Avengers Assemble to get you into the Iron Man space. For bonus points rewatch two of the finest films ever made - Lethal Weapon written by Shane Black and the great The Last boy Scout written and directed by Shane Black.

For further reading I would recommend The Ultimates the revises Avengers stories, Ultimate Iron Man which is a brilliant modern take on the Tony Stark as well as the entire Civil War and its fallout story arcs which is weighty material and an outstanding work of fiction touching on many real issues.

Iron Man 3 is in cinemas from April 25 2013.  
When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale with Jon Favreau and Ben Kingsley, Iron Man 3 is directed by Shane Black from a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black and is based on Marvel’s iconic Super Hero Iron Man, who first appeared on the pages of Tales of Suspense (#39) in 1963 and had his solo comic book debut with The Invincible Iron Man (#1) in May of 1968.


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