There is something both magical and horrifying about the film trilogy. Asking anyone to name their favourite film in a trilogy, and it will rarely if ever be the third, very much more the exception than the rule. As a character, Iron Man has always been popular in comic book history, but in the realm of film has always been a bench warmer, whilst stalwarts like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Hulk have enjoyed the lion’s share of screen time.
With the Disney dollars fuelling the Marvel Studios juggernaut but Sony owning the movie rights to Stan Lee’s iconic webslinger, the last five years have brought unprecedented success to showcasing the heroes that form the Avengers.
Iron Man certainly seems to have proved the most popular so far, much owing to the charismatic larger-than-life performance of Robert Downey Jr, and so with second outings for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, The Dark World, scheduled for release later this year, Chris Evans’ Captain America sequel The Winter Soldier following and the first Ant-Man venture due to be released before the second Avengers movie, it would appear that Disney are milking the cash cow fiercely. The key question is whether fans will still be as hyped for the subsequent films as each one arrives or is the Marvel name becoming another franchise to become disenfranchised with?
Having nearly sacrificed himself to save the world when the forces under control of Loki invaded New York, it is from the 2012 Whedon epic Avengers Assemble that Iron Man 3 picks up, with Tony still haunted by dreams of that night and gripped by the fear that nothing he can do or build could be enough to protect what matters most to him, his girlfriend Pepper Potts, still played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Now running Stark Enterprises, Pepper is approached by an old associate Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, Prometheus, Lockout) with some new technology. Elsewhere, a new terrorist leader called the Mandarin, played masterfully and delightfully by Ben Kingsley, is making a name for himself by bombing innocents and consequently an enemy in Iron Man. Following an attack on Stark’s beach mansion which leaves our hero presumed dead, he must rebuild himself whilst piecing together the truth behind the Mandarin, what links him to nanotech biologist and old flame Maya Hansen (The Awakening’s Rebecca Hall).
Peeling the lid back on this movie, with all its gloss, visual effects and snappy dialogue, we see a very sparse film that feels as though it has been rushed into production to fit the timeframe of Disney’s masterplan with the knowledge that audiences will flock to it regardless of any failings. Little effort has been put into the storyline and little time is given onscreen for Pearce to show his abilities, though Hall gives a very robust performance.
Kingsley’s performance is terrific, especially in the second half, and he seems to enjoy hamming it up and attempting to make the Mandarin appear like Bane, drawing comparisons with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy which last year was one of the few demonstrations how to close a trilogy satisfactorily, unlike this. Also, in what may be seen as a mainstreaming of Iron Man, the violence seems toned down, gone are the AC-DC/Black Sabbath sounds that characterised the first two films, and worst of all Insidious’ Ty Simpkins is brought in as a seeming token kid sidekick, to satisfy Disney’s younger target demographic.
The supporting cast, including Don Cheadle, Miguel Ferrer on form as Vice President Rodriguez and a lovely cameo from Adam Pally as Jack the cameraman, all serve well to protect the veneer, and whilst children may enjoy the action sequences and visuals, those looking for something with a bit more weight may be left with the feeling that this is just a filler to keep interest until the inevitable Avengers sequel.
Iron Man 3 is now on general release in 2D and IMAX 3D