A soldier going through serious P.T.S.D… Now that’s an interesting jumping off point for a super hero blockbuster that will probably make more money from kids buying action figures than it will from tickets sold at the box office. It’s also something that makes Iron Man 3 stand out a little from the overly saturated super hero crowd. Director and co-writer Shane Black had a tough job on his hands… Take over an established, crazy successful franchise and try to keep his one, single character entertaining and interesting after we’ve all seen the awesome team up fun of The Avengers.
The movie opens in the early 90s with Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark and Jon Favreau as his bodyguard Happy. This is Tony Stark back in his cool days, pounding booze and bangin’ broads, like any rich playboy should. He also rudely dismisses a scientist played by Guy Pearce. But that’s OK, I’m sure his revolutionary theories will amount to nothing and his anger and jealousy towards Stark won’t manifest as a crazy revenge plot. Oh snap, I was wrong. That’s exactly what happens.
Cut to the present day and Tony Stark is obsessively tinkering in his work shop building new and improved Iron Man suits. We learn pretty quickly this is all a coping mechanism as he tries to distract himself from the horrible things he saw in New York in the Avengers climax, and the dark thoughts about what might be next. He’s eventually snapped out of his funk by the prospect of throwing down with new global terrorist on the block, the Mandarin, played by an awesome Ben Kinglsey who chews the scenery gloriously every second he’s on screen. Don Cheadle is in his own Iron Man suit, rebranded as the Iron Patriot after a red, white and blue paint job and shows up just enough to add to the movie in fun ways without ever overstaying his welcome.
Through a series of events, Tony Stark spends a lot of this movie out of the Iron Man suit. That’s not a bad thing. If he’s not in the suit, it means we’re not constantly being hammered with crazy fight scenes and mass destruction. By resisting wall to wall action, it makes the few set pieces hit that much harder when they do occur, like the squadron of Iron Men that appear in the movie’s big climax. Even though I’d seen it in the trailers, the site of a couple of dozen Iron Men all flying to Tony Stark’s side for the last big battle still gave me a bit of a charge.
Shane Black’s screenplay brings plenty of great Shane Blackness to this world and helps give this character a new and interesting perspective. He knows how to write dry sarcasm better than anyone and Downey knows exactly how it should be delivered. I wouldn’t say this is the best Iron Man movie, but it’s more fresh and entertaining than anything you’d expect this deep into a franchise. And it’s definitely better than Iron Man 2.