The original Iron Man movie surprised everybody. Downey Jr. was as inconsistent as he was troubled, John Favreau had yet to prove himself as an action director, and the main character wasn’t nearly as iconic as the likes of Superman or Batman. The movie however was a blast. A larger, louder sequel was perhaps inevitable, but Iron Man 2 was a massive disappointment, and it wasn’t until Joss Whedon came aboard that genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark got his groove back.
Iron Man 3 pits him against his deadliest enemy yet – that would be Tony Stark then. Not to mention a fine array of dastardly villainy including goofy geneticist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), death bringer The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and fiery force of nature Eric Savin (24’s James Badge Dale). Credit goes to writer/director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) for keeping his leading man grounded; Downey Jr. is so good you’ll barely notice how little he plays Iron Man on screen.
Like Whedon, Black is able to draw from a large ensemble without ever sacrificing the pace of the movie. Everybody shines in Iron Man 3, be it Favreau’s Hogan (comical), Cheadle’s War Machine (heroic) or Paltrow’s Pepper Potts (peppy). There’s even room for an unlikely - and potentially damaging - sidekick who bags some of the best scenes. The bad guys fair just as well. Pearce adds another eccentric string to his bow, Kingsley provides the film with its biggest punch line, and Savin outguns them both with an unexpected turn, full of feverish menace and icy cool.
Despite the prospect of going too dark, Shane Black keeps the mood light, and as a result Iron Man 3 is the funniest entry in the series so far. The action sequences are striking, not least an audacious skydiving sequence that finds Stark likening the rescue of civilians to playing “Barrel of Monkeys”. With a cool cast, great comedy, stunning action sequences and Downey Jr. on top form, Iron Man 3 is the best of the series so far. Tony Stark will be back indeed. AW