Just a few days ago on Facebook, I predicted a huge twist for Iron Man 3. While my red-white-and-blue-striped thoughts were heading in the right direction, there was no way of guessing the major “WTF” moment that drew last night’s Century City audience to a dead silence — unless you were my date for the night, of course.
Director Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce (who also penned the upcoming Pacific Rim) should really throw audiences in for a shock; unfortunately, the reveal doesn’t quite reach the epic scale that was initially promised.
Then again, maybe it’s just cause this Iron Man isn’t quite the Iron Man of old. Much like the ton of Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, we see a lot more Tony Stark than we do of the man in the iron mask. Sure, all of the toys are back and then some, like a tasty pair of Hulkbuster armors! And, let’s not forget an even further turn of badassery for pal Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) a.k.a. War Machine a.k.a. Iron Patriot — hey, what’s good for America! But, Iron Man Three is the movie more about Stark’s own humanity becoming the hero than some overpriced gadgets doing the trick. Much like every hero goes through in the comics at some point or another, Tony is put through that ultimate test: can he defeat both the external evil and his own internal demons without the use of his ultimate abilities?
Since this is a high-octane action movie full of titillating CGI sequences and riveting… of course not.
That’s not to say Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t do his very best at trying. There’s less of a swagger with this Stark; there’s the ongoing haunt of an extraterrestrial New York City anxiety swirling his mental; and then there’s the nightmarish rise of his very own machines. What if your greatest creation came back to haunt you? That’s always been the villainous theme striking Tony over the course of the trilogy. Both the Iron Monger and Whiplash went on to create more powerful mechanics than the original stock, yet neither could match the superior intelligence of our favorite red-and-yellow Avenger.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is a completely new breed. Mind games are what he excels at, and mind games at what constantly plague Tony in this latest installment. Going any further would really kill it, but comic book readers should feel happy seeing bits of Matt Fraction’s second-half run on Invincible Iron Man (“Stark: Disassembled”), and, of course, the “The Many Armors of Iron Man” (Roy Thomas, David Michelinie, Bob Layton, Denny O’Neil) sprinkled in throughout the course of IM3. Then, the rest of the Iron-clad lot is far different, which makes watching the movies so fun(!), especially Rescue.
With that, new director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) does an outstanding job staying close to the same vein as the original showrunner — and current Stark bodyguard turned head of Stark Industries security, Happy Hogan — Jon Favreau, all the while making this Iron Man his very own. Black incorporates more of a briskly-paced, ’90s buddy-flick style, with plenty of LOL tongue-and-cheek. Iron Man 3 is the funniest of the three films. And, it thankfully has Downey Jr.’s presence to remain still very intelligent. There are several references to The Avengers, yet none of them are really used to market the franchise’s upcoming sequel (May 1st, 2015), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014), or Thor: The Dark World (November 8)…uh…like I just did.
It’s quite apparent early on that this film’s particular pacific coast terrorist threat is Tony’s problem, and Tony’s problem only.
Since we’ve watched countless superhero movies with already similar world-dominating threats, Black and Pearce keep this one original enough by going Extremis.
If you’ve read Warren Ellis’ run on Iron Man, then you already know that Extremis is very much akin to the super soldier serum that made Steve Rogers into Captain America, except this shit is closer to a virus than advantage. This bio-electronic measure is used to enhance a human’s DNA, which of course has both awesome and dangerous consequences to which you’ll see quite fantastically in the film. The evil intelligence this time out — like Sammy Rockwell from the last one — are Advanced Idea Mechanics defectors Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), characters straight from Ellis’ comic. Thus, there’s no surprise that a relationship is formed with the Mandarin when its decided that this virus would be a nice way to reshape the human race.
That’s where the predictability ends — even if Tony’s little warriors only come out for the game’s final play.
Iron Man 3 touches theaters nationwide this Friday, May 3.