I was watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and suddenly an Iron Man movie broke out. I’m sorry. That was rude. Okay, let me be clear. I love Iron Man. I love Robert Downey Jr.. I love Shane Black. And I’ve admitted many times that RDJ could spew out Black’s dialogue in a film about recycling Coke bottles and I’d watch. It’s just that Iron Man 3 does everything it can to test that loyalty. Is it as good as Avengers? Of course not. Is it the best film of the trilogy? Not in my opinion. Is it better than Iron Man 2? I’m not so sure I can say that. To be honest, Iron Man 3 is a different genre than Iron Man 2 and even Iron Man 1. And that is where my hesitance to tout it comes from. When I first heard that Shane Black was doing part 3, I was psyched. The man has made a living of making great action comedies for years. Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout, and Long Kiss Goodnight, to name a few. However, the things I loved about those films is that despite the humor and comedic interactions, you could suddenly find yourself in a gritty, bloody, hardcore shootout. Humorous scenes suddenly turned on their ear by a visceral murder. A suicidal breakdown. Revenge at any cost. And Black could weave these things effortlessly. Even though those films had the help of an R rating, I had faith that Black could still come close to delivering a little taste of this in Iron Man 3. Especially with the threat of Tony Stark’s biggest comic book nemesis, The Mandarin, looming over the storyline. The tone from the commercials also seemed to hint at the darkest plot we’d seen for the character. However, Iron Man 3 turns away from Martin Riggs, Charly Baltimore, and Joe Hallenbeck and leans more toward Gay Perry and Harry Lockhart. In other words, Iron Man 3 is not an action comedy. It is a comedy with action in it.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorite films. However, the tone wouldn’t be the first I’d use to fit this superhero film. Take for instance the handling of the film’s villain. Director Shane Black does something with The Mandarin, that I won’t spoil, which comic book fans will either love or absolutely despise. This…um…how should I put this…’reinvention’ fits the tone of a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang but not any Marvel film we’ve seen thus far. Now, don’t get me wrong. The jokes in Iron Man 3 are very funny. But they far outnumber any action you will see in it. I, for one, thought the balance of this action comedy franchise was preparing to shift. I was just misled as to which direction it was shifting. A direction I thought was reserved for Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man or James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.
The performances by the returning cast are solid once again. They are the one constant of the franchise. As I’ve said before, Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark. He captures the essence of that character better than any actor has any comic book character ever. Though, this is the lightest lifting Downey Jr. has had to do performance wise. They touch on Tony’s post traumatic stress disorder brought on from his experiences in The Avengers. Unfortunately, it is not fully explored and eventually brushed away through jokes way faster than Stark’s self destructive tendencies were in Iron Man 2. This film is probably the funniest Tony Stark has ever been. However, the best performance Robert Downey Jr. has given as the character is still, ironically, in Avengers. Even though Paltrow is disliked in her public persona, she is adored as Pepper Potts. Keeping serve opposite an actor such as Downey Jr., in four films now, is something she deserves enormous credit for. Cheadle, though almost an afterthought in this film, also has proven that he can hold his own against Downey Jr. in a scene. More so than Terrence Howard did in Iron Man 1. I just wish these two could get more screen time together. Because when they do interact, the relationship of Tony and Rhodey just sings.
I had high hopes for Kingsley as The Mandarin. Sexy Beast proved to me how much of a badass he can be. However, Black’s risky reinvention of his character limited what Kingsley was allowed to do. Speaking of missed opportunities, Guy Pearce’s abilities were also minimally tapped in this. His flippancy, though amusing, didn’t really seem to present a viable danger to our hero. Even through the climax. Love or hate Iron Man 2, there was no question as to the danger and threat that Mickey Rourke’s Ivan Vanko gave Tony. The villains in Iron Man 3 don’t scare you as much as Vanko, Stane, or even Hammer did.
After all that, you’d think I hated the film. I don’t. Iron Man 3 is not a step backwards for the franchise or for Marvel. It, to me, is just a risky step sideways. A step in a different direction. A direction, as The Mandarin warned, I didn’t see coming. Suit up…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.