Excellent, entertaining, playful and magnificent, this is a fantastic movie that builds on its successful predecessors while bringing in some fresh ideas. The film develops a few key, interconnected themes from the earlier movies, ranging from the dangers of weaponising science, to exploring the essence of the superhero. Is Tony Stark Iron Man, or is it the otherway round? And is it ever possible to halt the inevitable power = corruption equation?
The storyline presents us with the rich, arrogant, undeniably talented Tony Stark challenging the Mandarin, a super-terrorist, who threatens both the everyday citizen and the President of the United States. With a series of tricky twists and turns Iron Man Three plays skillfully with masks and shadowplay, subterfuge and dramatic irony.
So, our embattled hero is affected by the events of the Avengers movie. It’s good to see this, there’s a genuine sense of Tony Stark carrying the alien invasion and the destruction of much of New York, on behalf of his new audience, one that knows aliens and superheroes exist. It’s a parallel world to our own, but one we gladly buy into. As such there is plenty of backchat about the Avengers, particular in the hilarious and effective scenes with Harley. In fact the optimism and opportunism of Harley plays well against Tony Stark’s cycnical narcissism and offers some of the best lines in the film.
The army of iron men, subtly trailed at the beginning with a highlight on the Mark 42 suit. The emphasis on remote control of the suits was used playfully in the first part of the film, with some neat trickery that displayed Stark’s deluded obsession with technology and the emotional fragility of his genius. As the film moved on, the use of the remote control became darker, threatening (especially when one of the suits nearly attacked Pepper Potts) but ultimately triumphed in one of the best battle scenes in comic book movie history.
The implication of the remote use and the core threat of (bio)technology that sits behind the film also drives many other effective moments, particularly with Stark’s latest Iron man suit running out of battery and misfiring throughout the rest of the film, mainly when it was most needed. But also the human determination that drives Stark’s to reach beyond the limits of his damaged suit to achieve a scintillating rescue of eleven people from an exploding plane.
In many ways this is a film full of this sort of humanity. From the playfulness of the interactions between Stark and Harley, the terrific reveal scene with the Mandarin and the very funny moments with Stark sitting next to his suit, on a sofa, as though watching TV together. But there’s more to it than that, the memorials of the bomb-blasts play quite sensitively with post-Boston Marathan bombing sentiments and there are many cultural nods to the terrorism vs freedom fighter duality. Just who is the enemy here? It turns out to be something and someone far less obvious than the potentially corny threat of the first few scenes in the film.
In spite of the aggression and male swagger that marks Robert Downey Jnr’s excellent performance he is matched, when allowed by the script by the elegant, no-nonsense approach of Gwynneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. There are several scenes, when she combines the emotional strength of her gender with a transcending power of determination and skill, particulalry the defining climax of the battle as she takes down a suit then beats the bad guy in one pretty swift movement. Her subsequent expression of shock and triumph was worth the ticket price alone.
There isn’t much to complain about. There’s an occasional moment that perhaps intends to pay homage to the 2D comic origins of Iron Man (such as Tony stark pulling the suit across the snow) but can seem a little awkward, and the scene at the beginning with Stark’s behaviour giving us the inevitable motivation for a comic-book villain’s revenge was a little too obvious. But I am struggling for any real issues. I suppose I don’t care much for Iron patriot but I recognise it will resonate with US audiences and was used well as a plot device.
A final thought on the negatives, The Mandarin reveal was brilliant at that particular point in the film and contains some of the best acting you could wish for. The audience roared with laughter, as we all enjoyed the deception. It provided some comic moments throughout the rest of the film but as I left and since, I feel slightly let down about it. Perhaps I don’t like being manipulated? Or perhaps the twist was too obviously a plot device to make us think harder about our perceptions and prejudices.
Well, it feels like the end of an era with destruction of all the suits and the removal of the shrapnel, Stark’s recommitment to a life with Pepper and the towing away of Jarvi’s arm. But clearly, it is a kick start into the next Thor, Captain America, Avengers, perhaps A Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant Man and Dr Strange movies: who knows? But on this evidence, the second wave of Marvel movies will be as great as, if not better than, the first.
Ratings (out of five stars)
Entertainment value: ***** Story rating: ****
So, the overall rating is:
A Fantastic *****
What did you think? Was it worth the wait? Did the twists work for you? Please leave a comment below. Thank you.