I must first confess that I am predisposed to love this film. I’ve been very satisfied with the recent crop of Marvel movies; even the weaker entries like Captain America were still very enjoyable. I’m delighted that we’ve finally reached the point where superhero films tend to be good (we’ll skip the abysmal shitstorms of X-Men 3, Green Lantern and Ghost Rider and the disappointment of Superman Returns and the last Batman) – partly that’s because they can look right. Great care has been taken to transfer comics to the screen without the garish costumes and without carrying over the (now) convoluted plots and multiple worlds problems of the comic series. Film makers are also putting good actors in all roles, and although they’re basically action flicks, the scripting and screen writing is much better. The Avengers series are all pleasingly linked (now under Joss Whedon‘s care) and the stings at the end of credits have been reason enough to see them all.
So – Iron Man 3. I’ve read a number of disappointed reviews and friends have told me it just ain’t that good. I was a bit worried. Number two in the series wasn’t great, certainly not as enjoyable as the brilliant introduction to Robert Downey Jr‘s smug, snappy, flawed Tony Stark. Iron Man 3 is set after the events in Avengers Assemble and we have a wonderful stressed, PTSD suffering Stark hiding away from the world. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is running Stark Industries and the other Avengers are nowhere to be seen. The time is ripe for terrorism! The Mandarin is the bad guy and there are folk who have been medically enhanced to be super-hot (not just Guy Pearce hot, but burning hot).
This film is about Stark and how he relates to the world in the wake of Loki’s invasion. Most of the first half of it is setup and character detail for Stark, Potts and the bad guys. It’s all brilliant, as usual Stark’s cockiness is deflated by lab accidents (his new flying component armour results in decent slapstick throughout the film), by jealousy and sulky pettishness. There’s a lot of relationship tension between Stark and Potts which rings pretty true for someone suffering from trauma. They both get given great lines too. Once the film’s action kicked in as well I was thrilled. The total destruction of his home, his arsenal and life is surprisingly affecting.
From there we end up for a while in a very odd-seeming sub-plot where he gets aid from a young lad. In any other film this would be terrible. It’s never good when a hero gets a child sidekick, but that is subverted wonderfully. Stark is incredibly mean to the kid; it’s very funny and sad. It’s a nice way of exposing another side to the increasingly brittle Stark as he puts the kid down and has panic attacks.
There’s very little else I can say without giving away vital surprises. Suffice to say that this the best role Ben Kingsley has had (possibly…) in my lifetime. He’s a fine rent-an-athnic Englishman and he really nails this one. I can also assure you that the trailer-promised multi-suit showdown is very satisfying, with the CGI-smash being huge but strictly background to the one on one punchup between Stark and The Mandarin. Fans should be as happy as I was to point out the different suits – the big Hulk suit made me smile. Oh, and Pepper gets some cool stuff to do too (though she and the other female character do mostly need to be saved, which is a bit of a let down).
Watch it! I loved it and still do days later. I may even revisit Iron Man 2 with the knowledge that it will be improved upon enormously. Oh, and do stay for the sting after the credits. It’s not a series linker like the others but it made me laugh.