Iron Man 3 follows Tony Stark as he struggles to overcome the events of New York seen in The Avengers. But the billionaire doesn’t have much time to ponder on them: a powerful new enemy who calls himself The Mandarin is beginning a reign of terror by orchestrating explosions. When Tony’s good friend and past bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) gets caught up in one of the attacks, Stark has no choice but to call out The Mandarin. But with crippling anxiety attacks taking over his life and the ever growing realisation of Mandarin’s capability, can Tony overcome the overwhelming odds stacked against him?
Jon Favreau, who oversaw the direction of Iron Man and its sequel, gives up the directing chair to have a more prominent role as Happy, the loyal bodyguard to Stark. In his place steps the veteran action screenwriter Shane Black, who penned Lethal Weapon, its sequel and The Last Boy Scout. This isn’t the first time Black has worked with Robert Downey Jnr. either; the pair collaborated on the 2005 action comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With his genre background, Iron Man 3 could have potentially been the greatest of the three – so it’s baffling then that it’s the least thrilling. Instead of set pieces that wow, we get a brooding, almost whiny Stark that no one wants to see. The character seems to have been affected massively from the final scenes of Avengers. That’s not to say the New York battle shouldn’t have been acknowledged, but it alters the Stark so much here that he’s just not the same anymore. Gone is the eccentric, sarcastic, likable man we grew to love from the first two films, and in his place is a hollow shell of a man that no one asked to see. Downey Jnr. however, is unsurprisingly great, which is even more of a feat considering the the material he has to work with.
I’m not overly clued up on the comic version of Iron Man, but I do know that The Mandarin is his greatest foe – much like The Joker is to Batman. And for the first hour or so, the build up is acceptable: Ben Kingsley dryly lays out his plans with an emotionless, none-caring tone. Without giving too much away, this doesn’t last though. And although Kingsley continues to impress, the character takes an unwanted turn that is bound to infuriate fans of the comic, and make anyone watching lose any interest in the rest of the film. Other performances by Guy Pierce, Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are sufficient, but they hardly light the screen up with their presence.
The action sequences, of which there are few until the final expected showdown, are filled with explosions and not much else: the suits now ‘fly’ to Tony unaided, meaning any sense of danger is now gone due to him being rescued by the suit each time. This shouldn’t really be a complaint, because it’s the most time we actually get to see the suits – make no mistake, this is a Tony Stark central movie. He’s in a suit for about 20 minutes of the entire runtime, that of which is the longest of the three at 130 minutes. For the rest of the film, he’s the persona previously mentioned and it’s no fun at all to watch. The climax is entertaining enough, but it’s too late to save the previous scenes that came before it.
Iron Man 3 is 2013’s biggest disappointment. That’s a bold claim to make only 5 months into the year, but the previous instalments and the trailer for it promised so much, yet delivered even less than the lowest expectations. Hardcore Iron Man fans will most likely be pleased to see their hero on screen again, but for everyone else it’s 2 hours that could be spent more productively elsewhere.