Just have a think on how far superhero films have come since the first Iron Man. Not even Nick Fury saw it coming. In 2008, Marvel hadn’t had a credible release for years while DC was darkening the genre with Christopher Nolan’sThe Dark Knight. Then came the first step in Marvel’s grand – and now clearly successful – plan to make an unrivalled blockbuster. Iron Man was humorous without being camp; serious without being morbid. This perfect balance has become the tone of all Marvel films since and continues in this potential finale.
After battling aliens and travelling through wormholes during Avenger’s Assemble, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a wreck. Suffering from anxietyand PTSD, he can’t sleep and busies himself improving his suits before the next attack. On top of that a terrorist known as the Mandarin is attacking America and targeting Tony.
On the surface the plot is predictable for die-hard fans and regular moviegoers. Enough source material is referenced for fans to keep ahead though while regular watchers can use their own blockbuster knowledge. But, there are a few twists that few will see coming that make up for some predictability.
Considering the film took two years to make, the plot feels oddly ‘now’ tackling PTSD in soldiers and how it strains relationships. Downey Jr. gives Stark a vulnerability not normally associated with the arrogant billionaire. The sleepless nights, panic attacks and the constant frustration vividly capture what many American soldiers go through on a daily basis.
Then there are the bombings. Early on there is a bomb attack at Hollywood’s famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre that is uncomfortably similar to the Boston Marathon attack last week. Although only a coincidence it demonstrates that Iron Man 3 has captured the spirit of this age and is very serious for a comic book.
But don’t worry it’s not too serious. Like Avengers Assemble, Shane Black andDrew Pearce’s script has laughs alongside the action and this is what Marvel does best. Downey Jr. is given lines in the action scenes, in the emotional scenes, and in every scene in-between. As an added bonus the jokes don’t fall flat, but have audiences laughing.
Sometimes the film does sway a bit too far towards a punchline. There are moments, especially during the fight sequences, where they have chosen to be goofy over cool. It may have been a sleeker movie if a few gags hadn’t been included but then it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. There are still plenty of geek-gasm moments and great actions scenes to avoid being branded lame particularly the final battle which features an army of Iron Man suits. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.
While the last time the suit went out for a flight it was part of a team, Iron Man 3 is all about returning a deserving Downey Jr. to centre stage. His jokes get laughs, his action scenes drop mouths and his panic attacks melt hearts. This is the deepest Marvel has gone with any of its characters so far. Downey Jr. sensitively plays a broken man by not making light of the situation but also by not becoming too enveloped in it.
The problem with Iron Man 3 being the Robert Downey Jr. Show however is that other characters don’t get the time they deserve. Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce all do well but the female characters aren’t as lucky. BothGwyneth Paltrow as girlfriend Pepper Potts and Rebecca Hall as ex-fling Dr Maya Hansen have a few ace moments but they are few and far between. Marvel has shown it can do fun non-heroic female parts, such as Agent Maria Hill orBlack Widow, so it is a shame they didn’t succeed here. Instead both are often stuck with the damsel role.
The original Iron Man led the way for a new style of comic genre movie and this film carries on that legacy. Overall Iron Man 3 is a marvellous addition to the franchise and explores new depths with the central hero. The tone is well balanced with humour and seriousness blended well together between fun and exhilarating action scenes. Let’s hope the rumours that Downey Jr. will step out of the suit are untrue as no other actor right now could replace him.