by Katie Gile
With the snip of a badass celluloid ribbon, the theaters are open for the scorching heat and thrills of another Superhero Summer. Leading the pack this season, as the franchise did for the new wave of Marvel heroes, is Iron Man 3.
Hyped with the infamous villain, the “Mandarin,” the newest installment finds Tony Stark in a post-“Avengers” world. His anxiety over the events in New York City leaves him a paranoid mess, tinkering away at countless inventions and suit modifications. That is, until a baddie the like of which he has never faced brings danger to his doorstep.
The change in direction with “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” director Shane Black at the helm is noticeable. Black sets the film’s feet firmly on the ground. Where “Iron Man 2” went a little over-the-top with gadgetry and zippy puns, this movie strips down Tony Stark and to gritty, magnetic effect. Marvel fans should not despair, however. While Black’s “Iron Man 3” is decidedly darker than its predecessors, the comic relief and family-friendly enjoyment synonymous with Marvel films is alive and kicking.
This time around, it’s less about the huge explosions, techno-fun and killer AC/DC tunes, although all are certainly present. Iron Man 3 focuses more on character development. The script, penned by Black and Drew Pearce, takes some time to warm up. While Stark’s post-Avengers anxiety is understandable, at times we wonder what his problem really is. But as the film continues, the style with which Stark’s mental difficulties are handled creates a sense of isolation, giving the audience a window into his mind. The relationship development between Start and Pepper Potts feels very organic, as does the resurgence of the charming buddy-cop dynamic between Stark and Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes. The script’s humor is sharper than it’s been. Playfully dancing with the “too-far” line, the script is cheeky, but not tactless. The film, interestingly, plays up a contrast between its impish sense of humor and a sober mood, laced with the wistful sting of finality. Though there are no spoilers to be found here, Black’s film implies that things are not as they were.
Robert Downey, Jr. fills out the Iron Man suit as only he can once more. Though he still speaks as though the script was written for him, Downey’s Stark explores the darker side. It’s refreshing to see what happens when Stark is thrown in a situation in which he can’t talk or gadget his way out, and it’s then that Downey’s skill as an actor shines most.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts has a larger role this time around than in films prior. Paltrow’s Potts is ever the Girl Friday. Her wry humor, doe-eyed charm and wholesome strength shape a compelling character and a perfect leading lady to Downey’s Stark. Paltrow’s complete believability brings the character to life and gives us someone to relate to when Stark loses his mind.
Don Cheadle also reprises his role as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Taking on the “Iron Patriot” suit, (which is likely to ruffle a few canon-lover feathers) Cheadle’s Rhodey is up to his usual patriotic, good-guy duties. Cheadle’s take on the character is earnest and strong, especially when he and Stark need each other’s help. It’s together with Downey that Cheadle’s timing and humor come out to play as the wiser part of a fantastic pair.
Newcomer Guy Pearce delivers a fantastic performance as Aldrich Killian. His portrayal of the scientifically brilliant and mentally unhinged developer is gushing with manic menace. Pearce does not overdo it, however. His breed of peculiarity raises our hackles, but doesn’t step into the outrageous.
Together with a stellar supporting cast, including Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen and Jon Favreau reprising his role as Happy Hogan, Iron Man 3 is a great ensemble piece that reminds us that everyone we see is of consequence.
“Unleash the power behind the armor,” its tagline implies. Iron Man 3 accomplishes this feat with excellent performances, a new take on Tony Stark’s world and by asking a little more thinking from its audience.
Its grittier style and back-to-basics attitude remind us where Iron Man came from and in so doing, where he’s going. It stands as a sterling addition to the Marvel movie canon and the beginning of yet another exciting Summer of Superheroes.
And Marvel fans, be sure to stay through the credits. Marvel has a little message for you.