Iron Man 3 (3 out 5 Stars)
Directed by: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Written by: Drew Pierce, and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
I always walk into comic book films attempting never to be a fan boy. I even walked out of X-Men: The Last Stand with mild optimism. I have read X-Men comics since I was five years old (23 years), and was excited to see the Phoenix on screen. Of course looking back this is one of the worst comic book films, of course nothing is worse than Wolverine: Origins. The character of Iron Man never crossed my path until later, but Tony Stark soon became one of my favorite Marvel characters, and I devoured almost all of his stories from alcoholism to the Civil War.
Iron Man 3 is set in post Avengers world, the battle in New York City is over, and Tony (Downey Jr.) is having a bit of PTSD with regard to all of the events from that day. The film opens on Tony back in 1999 where he was a playboy bedding Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), and meeting an admire Aldrich Killian (Pierce) who runs AIM and wants Tony of board to help advance his plans. Tony flashes to the present insomnia filled and thinking about the way the past and mistakes define his future. There is a new villain out to get Tony, named the Mandarin who is this dangerous terrorist plotting to blow up places and people on American soil.
Enter Shane Black the new director, and screenwriter for the film series. The original Iron Man was directed by the film's star Jon Favreau who plays Stark/Potts bodyguard Happy. The original film had four different writers namely because the the film had numerous re-writes one script, which actually included the Mandarin, but his character was axed. The sequel was also directed by Favreau, and written surprisingly by Justin Theroux (the future hubby for Jennifer Aniston). Black obviously had his work cut out for him after the Avengers film, and a quality first film in the series (2 was not good).
Black has only directed one other feature film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a pretty good film, but different from the Marvel popcorn fair. Yet the direction is one his greater strengths; he knows the characters well, and sets up some great action sequences which succeed. Black's direction is more emotional than the first two films, namely because his screenplay, which he wrote with first time screenwriter Drew Pierce explores this character on a much deeper level.
When I was watching Tony Stark grapple with his anxiety it was as though they were tackling a version of his alcoholism story within the comic books. The concept of Stark as an alcoholic will never be a part of the film series (that I can see). Downey Jr. excels in this role as a narcissist, but there is also something more humbling within the character he has grown, and matured something which this script gets spot on! I think the deeper, and more emotional level helps make a comic book film feel real, and allows you to become attached to the characters on different levels.
Now changing an entire character around and playing with a villains history, that's where script takes a turn and shows weakness. I tried not be a fan boy (sorry Shane and Drew) but your big twist almost ruined the entire film. Spoilers after this part so stop reading if you do not want to know anything. While it was clear from the beginning that Aldrich Killian was working with the Mandarin (Kingsley) making Killian the big bad, and Mandarin laughable actor who was playing a part is a slap in the face to Marvel history.
For a brief history on the actual representation of both Aldrich Killian and the Mandarin here you go. Mandarin is character created long ago by Stan Lee way back in 1964. Mandarin is a pathological egotist who is a genius in science, and marital arts. Mandarin wields 10 rings which he adapted from alien technology. These rings could have been tied to the incident in New York City and the future story which centers around Thanos who also wields rings. Yet you did not go there? Instead Black and pierce along with producer Favreau took a little known character who was scientist and created a disease, Aldrich Killian, and made him into something he was not, all for the sake of realism. Fan boy rant over.
Even outside of being a fan, this plot twist felt forced and proved that the battle with the big bad showed that there was little at stake with the actual villain. Sure Killian took things away from Tony, but the action sequences which were out of this world almost seem pointless because of the way the villain within this film. A hero is only as interesting as the villain he or she battles. In this film I think the greatest battle was Stark's inner demons, which was fascinating, and well done. The actual villain, and the way it was constructed was a total misfire, and lowered the bar for this film.
Iron Man 3 was better than 2 (not hard to be(, had more emotional depth than the first but is still quite flawed. I can see why some people hate this film, and can understand why other praise the film. This doesn't even seem like a build up to the Avengers 2, which is good that this is more than that but they could have made it fit into place naturally rather jam the pieces into the puzzle. Even the closing scene while funny just fell flat.
On a film level Iron Man explores a much deeper subject matter, but as a fan of the characters and for the sake of the journey this is middle of the road.