It was with massive excitement that I entered the cinema at midnight last night, as this is a film I have been anticipating ever since Avengers blew the roof off the superhero film genre. Truth be told I was expecting a lot from Iron Man 3.
I was not disappointed.
Shane Black and writing partner Drew Pearce have here crafted a story that sees Tony Stark battling himself as much as any actual external villain. Channelling tonal elements of the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ comic book run, it is quickly apparent that Stark is so at odds with himself following the events in Avengers that he is becoming a danger to himself and others around him. It is against this backdrop of personal anguish that he is plunged into yet more danger via a new terrorist threat in the form of Ben Kingsley’s The Mandarin.
What I really like about this story is the return to villains that feel very real. Much like the original Iron Man film, these enemies are a representation of something which in today’s world is a genuine threat. This makes the danger seem all the more potent and means at times the film is genuinely quite scary.
Of course there are also elements of the fantastical; this is a comic book movie after all. As the story progresses we are introduced to an army of super soldiers who can regenerate limbs at will and pose an un-killable challenge to Tony and the world at large.
There are also great moments of humour, courtesy of Black (screenwriting god). He knows the exact right way to tackle any situation and inject comedy to strike the right balance of tone, when set against more dramatic moments. In particular an unlikely partnership between Tony and a straight talking little kid provides some of the best scenes in the movie. The dialogue is fast paced, funny and develops the characters in ways that are both subtle and ingenious.
In fact I think that the greatest compliment I could pay Iron Man 3 is that the best moments occur when Tony is without his suit. He struggles to be a hero without any toys and all the while has to battle his inner demons. So good is this part of the character arc that I found myself wanting more of the suit-less scenes as the credits rolled; it’s not often you can say that about an effects laden superhero film.
As a final note – I’ve got a feeling The Mandarin will divide opinion; particularly that of comic book aficionados. I won’t spoil anything but there is something unexpected that happens to him. Whilst I found myself questioning it for the first few moments, I quickly came to appreciate it thanks again to the incredible writing and a wholly unique performance from Kingsley.
Overall Iron Man 3 is a massive success. Injecting fresh blood into the franchise and providing a story that has a grandiose sense of scale, coupled with intimate character moments that are amongst the best Marvel Studios has put out so far. Whilst it suffers slightly from some middle act sag, the incredible first act and climax, along with some truly signature Shane Black dialogue, make this yet another triumph for Marvel.