This review was originally published on TopicalTodd.com 5/7/2013
With it’s hype and box office performance, Marvel’s aim for Iron Man 3 to top last summer’s The Avengers. For the most part it succeeds. The latest from the franchise is one the studio’s best, especially when it explores the main character’s darker tendencies, but it falls to prey to the films unmemorable tendencies that keep the film from being something special.
As the first film in Marvel’s “Phase Two,” line of films – which also includes Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers 2 – Iron Man 3 is very much its own film thus eliminating one of the problems of the previous film and Captain America, both of which were mainly set-up for The Avengers. Here, the events of that film are used to great effect by asking how someone reconciles fighting aliens with a god, a cryogenically preserved soldier and a Hulk then return to a normal life. This is likely because Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is the most three dimensional character of S.H.E.I.L.D’s band of heroes.
Downey has been quoted as saying he believes the character has been exhausted and might not return to the character many more times. He’s played him four times now but the character hasn’t been as interesting (or as fun) here since the first film. As much as Downey brings to the performance credit is due to director Shane Black who worked with the actor in the excellent buddy cop comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black’s familiarity with Downey and infuses an irreverent humor which works well with the films darker tone.
Speaking of the darker tone, it’s one of the films strengths and its biggest weaknesses. Marvel’s films have created a reputation of being the “fun” superhero movies where as DC (read: Christopher Nolan’s Batman films) are much more serious. While the Marvel tone allowed for Downey to give a performance that’s rightfully made him a star, it also makes the villains and periphery characters feel inconsequential. Guy Pearce is very good as Aldrich Killian the greasy business man who may have ties to the terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) – who’s also great – but there’s nothing memorable about him.
The same goes for Stark’s girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) or his best friend Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Both have significantly richer roles than in the past films but their characters don’t bring anything unique. The same goes for many of the films action sequences – with the exception of a sky diving rescue mission which was shot using actual stuntmen. When I think about the finale or the attack on casa de Stark, there are stand out moments but nothing is memorable on its own.
That’s the film’s defining characteristic. It’s usually fun thanks to the Downey and the writing but it isn’t memorable which keeps the film from being the true event of the summer.
*** 1/2 / *****