It’s here, it’s here, thank God Almighty it’s finally here! No longer must we cinephiles languish in the doldrums of spring and winter releases, for May has arrived with it the Summer Blockbuster season we have all been waiting for. Gone are the days of looking at the theater marquee and having to ask yourself “What the hell is this crap?”, here are the days of lining up with your fellow fans to see the opening releases of movies you’ve known about for months if not years. At this time I must apologize for my gushing, but it’s been a long four months. Having seen every single movie that’s come out this year on 1,200 screens or more, I would be hard pressed to claim that anyone who hasn’t been to the theater yet in 2013 has been missing out on much. I strongly anticipate that fact to change over the course of the next 30 days, however, and if Iron Man 3 is the opening salvo of what’s to come then thing’s aren’t looking too shabby. Between a snappy, amusing script and another expectedly great performance from Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man 3 right’s nearly all of the wrongs of its predecessor to produce the most explosively entertaining film of the year.
The Plot: 8/10
When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
When it comes to Superhero movies, the role of the story is far more important than it is in your typical action movie. The comic books that characters like Iron Man and Batman are taken from feature some of the most complicated, intricate story lines of any form of entertainment that exists today, and as a result there is a constant struggle in comic book movies to balance those complex story lines with audience accessibility issues. In that sense, the plot of Iron Man 3 might not be as elaborate or dynamic as, let’s say, The Dark Knight, but it still has more than enough going on to keep you interested. In particular, there is one specific twist that occurs partway through the film that had me legitimately taken off guard in a very enjoyable way. If you’ve seen the movie, you probably know what I’m talking about so no spoilers…
The Writing: 9/10
This is by far the biggest area of the film which makes it stand out from the first two entries. In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, the writing was good but it always felt like it was Downey Jr. who made the lines pop rather than the script itself. Here, writer/director Shane Black works in a great level of dark, sarcastic humor that fits in perfectly with Stark’s character. There are a few jokes that didn’t really land in the screening I was in, but for the most I thought the movie’s comic side had just the right amount of dryness in it for my taste.
On a side note, the humor is what makes the movie entertaining but that isn’t to say that the film is without its serious side. After all, the promotional material tried to emphasize the raising of the stakes here as much as possible, ranging from the destruction of Stark’s iconic mansion to shots of a wounded Stark weakly dragging his suit through a snowy field. While the shortcomings on the villainous end prevent us from feeling like Tony himself is ever in much serious danger (though to be fair, the announcement of The Avengers 2 made that a non-issue from the get go), but it’s the world around him that really feels at stake. In a franchise like this, that’s often enough to keep you emotionally invested regardless of what the star has already signed on for in the future.
The Acting: 8/10
It’s no secret that I was disappointed by Iron Man 2, mostly because it felt like what director Jon Favreau would later go on to admit that it was; a cash grab. As a result, I thought that Robert Downey Jr. felt a bit like he was on auto-pilot during that movie, a feeling which I am happy to say did not present itself here. With a strong script behind him, Downey Jr. reminds us all why the role brought him back into the public’s good graces in the first place. I was slightly nervous to hear some of the weariness the man has expressed with the role, after all it would be easy to phone it in if you were sick and tired of a character that has nearly come to define you as an actor (Robert Pattinson feels your pain). Luckily, that weariness comes across on the screen and works very well with Stark’s exhaustion.
I’m pretty opposed to the idea of liking Gwyneth Paltrow, so I’m not going to talk about her for the risk of breaking my own rule (Read: Pepper get’s to play the Badass in a few scenes and it’s more effective than I’d care to admit). Don Cheadle doesn’t factor in here quite has heavily as he did in the last film, but his chemistry with Downey Jr. is even better. That being said, I remain firmly on Tony’s side in the case of War Machine vs. Iron Patriot. War Machine is way cooler.
Finally, we have Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce in the bad guy’s corner. There really isn’t a hell of a lot I can talk about here without spoiling some of the most impressively kept secrets of the movie’s production, but I’ve seen strongly mixed reactions to the villains of the film from various reviews I’ve read. Personally, I think that the handling of The Mandarin worked great from a plot standpoint, but not necessarily as great from a character standpoint. Beyond that, go watch the movie and then we’ll talk
The Action: 10/10
We knew from the start that as the “downfall of Tony Stark”, Iron Man 3 was bound to feature a lot of Tony getting his ass handed to him for the first half of the movie at least. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as fun to watch the hero lose as it is to watch him win, so it would have been really easy for the first half of the movie to illicit a strong “Get on with It!” response from the audience. I never got this feeling though, since no matter how bad things get or how much of a beating Stark takes, he always feels like he’s somehow in control of the situation.
When things do come around to the movie’s second “redemption” half, though, the result is absolutely spectacular. The final battle gives us the extremely crowd-pleasing concept of a mini-army of Iron Man suits joining Stark in battle, and though once again I will spare you the spoiler-oriented details I can assure you that it is an absolute blast to watch. The one criticism I would have for the movie’s action as a whole would be that the 3D really didn’t add much of anything to the movie, so my strong recommendation is to save yourself the extra money and catch it in the traditional format.
The Verdict: 8.5/10 – Impressive
+ Robert Downey Jr. fully recovers from the auto-pilot feel of Iron Man 2
+ The script is full of the kind of sarcastic humor that made us love Stark in the first place
+ The stakes are higher than ever, culminating in the best action sequences of the series
– The Mandarin is a good villain, but doesn’t have the raw power of Bane or The Joker
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
The Cinematic Katzenjammer: 9.2/10
Movie Writing: 9/10
The Bishop Review: 4.5/5
Tim’s Film Reviews: 88%
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 8.5/10
Three Rows Back: “…as cool, collected and cocksure as its hero”
Amonymous Reviews: 4/5
Black Sheep Reviews: 4/5
262 Pages: 4/5
Cinematic Corner: 75/100
A Constant Visual Feast: “smarter than the average tentpole film”
Fast Film Reviews: 3.5/5
The Code is Zeek: 3.5/5
Keith and the Movies: 3.5/5
Bananas About Movies: 3.5/5
Bananas About Movies: 3/5
Average: 7.6/10 – Superior