Marvel announced their ‘Phase 1’ plans in 2008 with the release of Iron Man. They planned to release a standalone movie with each of their heavy hitters (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America) leading up to the mega-superhero masterpiece The Avengers, last summer. As crazy as this sounded at the time, it turned out to be an amazing plan. In that lineup was Iron Man 2 as well, in case you forgot what happened up to this point, this sums it up nicely:
John Favreau directed Iron Man 1 and 2, but stepped aside for this movie (perhaps to devote more time to his portrayal of Happy, Tony Stark’s bodyguard). Shane Black, who had previously worked with Robert Downey Jr. on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stepped in. If you have seen that movie, you need to – it’s fantastic.
Iron Man 3 starts Marvel’s ‘Phase 2’ plans, which will go through Thor 2 later this year, Captain America 2 early next year, and Guardians of the Galaxy late next year before finishing with Avengers 2 in 2015, and preparing for ‘Phase 3’.
Iron Man 3 picks up where Avengers left off, Tony is battling some sleep depravity and anxiety after clashing with an entire army from outer space and assembling the Avengers in New York. He is attempting to continue letting Pepper Potts run Stark Enterprises. Pepper turns down an offer from Aldrich Killian (who has founded A.I.M. – which you are familiar with if you know the comics) to both to join AIM and help him with some questionable research into ‘healing’ technology. He doesn’t take this too kindly, and partners with an international terrorist known as ‘the Mandarin’ to go after Stark. Meanwhile, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, is helping the government and the president, and has shifted from the brutal War Machine to the more friendly Iron Patriot. The Mandarin attacks, Happy gets injured, Tony gets angry, mouths off about the Mandarin on TV – giving away his home address in the process, the Mandarin attacks, destroys the house, and Tony is presumed dead. Tony takes this opportunity to do some investigating of some strange explosions, bond with a random kid (sort of), and rebuild; both his suit and himself. He then brings the fight to the Mandarin in a spectacular way.
I wasn’t sure that Shane Black would have what it takes to direct a big budget action comic-book piece, but I remember thinking that about Favreau in 2008 as well. Black does a fantastic job, not competing with the grandeur that was the Avengers, but bringing the story back in to just Tony and his clique, and by maintaining a big feel for the action pieces. The movie looks amazing, and is worth the extra cost for the 3D.
The cast is mostly the same as the other Iron Man movies, with a few new additions.
· Robert Downey Jr. is again absolutely perfect as Tony Stark, even with this more damaged and anxious Tony Stark. Marvel did well with his casting, and has been able to build this entire franchise around him. He is quick witted and smart, and again, the dialogue benefits greatly from his freedom to improvise. He’s believable and charming, and is the main reason that Iron Man has become so popular.
· Gwyneth Paltrow again plays Pepper Potts, equal parts smarts and spunk. She’s trying to balance her relationship with Tony to running the company. Paltrow finally gets some serious action in this movie that she does really well (check out those abs). Rescue was teased, but is not fully delivered. However, her climatic action sequence is fantastic.
· Don Cheadle plays Rhodey for the second time, he has more to do in this one, but it’s still not a lot. He protects the president and gets captured and booted out of his suit. That’s odd, but provides some great scenes for he and RDJ to play without suits.
· Guy Pearce steps in as Aldrich Killian, the head of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics). Guy is amazing in almost everything he does (I loved Lockout, despite it being terrible – and you should probably go watch Memento again). He brings a likeable quality to Killian, and then takes an amazing villain turn. Also – he’s a big enough character and an actor with enough confidence to go toe to toe with RDJ, which is always difficult in these movies.
· Rebecca Hall plays Maya Hansen, she’s a scientist who first develops the regeneration tech. She has only a few scenes. She’s not particularly memorable, but she’s not forgettable either.
· Jon Favreau plays Happy Hogan, the loyal bodyguard. Since he’s not directing this time, he has a few more scenes, including some truly hilarious moments at the front of the movie.
· Ben Kingsley plays the Mandarin, and while it’s not the Mandarin we’re familiar with, it is a brilliant take on it – for this movie. Sir Ben is amazing and looks like he is having the time of his life with this role. That hairstyle, well, I’ll let you make your own call on that. Where’s the Fu Manchu mustache?
· William Sadler plays the President, and Miguel Ferrer plays the Vice President. Neither of them have a lot to do, but they’re good with what they have.
· James Badge Dale is worth mentioning as Savin – or Henchman number 1. There’s always a Henchman number 1 in these movies. His main purpose is to demonstrate the level of tech the bad guys have, and the effect is fantastic.
I loved the movie overall – it has the same tone as the other Iron Man movies; really funny, with some great action sequences. On top of that is the brilliance of RDJ’s portrayal of the world’s most lovable jerk. The scenes of him interacting with the kid were fantastic. The skydiving sequence was amazing, and I am not sure I have ever seen anything like that in a movie. Of course, there were some things I did not like. There are some issues I have with this version of the Mandarin. Setting it during Christmas was weird, it was always meant to be a big summer tentpole movie, but apparently Shane Black really loves Christmas. I also felt like it was a bit long. It’s just over 2 hours, and there were some slow parts in the middle that could have been trimmed down. Apparently the edit for the China market is even longer, containing more footage of the character Dr. Wu, and his assistant, played by Chinese stars Xueqi Wang and Bingbing Fan. All in all though, if this is RDJ’s last standalone deliverance of Iron Man – it is a spectacular one. Stay through the credits - but I should not have to tell you that at this point.
9 out of 10. Gained points for Pepper’s role in this one, much more. Lost points for no one who was working for AIM being in the AIM suits…come on guys – really? Gained points for Stan Lee’s cameo – hilarious. Lost points for the Mandarin, but then gained points for the Mandarin. Gained points for all the other Iron Man suits, then lost points for what happens to them. Lost points for no FingFangFoom, I know, that would have been crazy - but I wanted to see him. Gained points for RDJ – he is Tony Stark.
Bonus Video 1: EMF…This cartoon is streaming on your Netflix – do yourself a favor and watch it – it is fantastic! Also – AIM is always in their suits.
Bonus Video 2: Pearce in Memento – in case you forgot (that’s a pun). He’s told you about his condition, right?
Bonus Video 3: More How It Should Have Ended goodness.
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews!