Shane Black did the unexpected with a tough character like The Mandarin and turning the character on its head that I highly doubt comic fans are going to openly embrace this version seen in Iron Man Three (as it is called in the end credits). But the script is so well done with that Shane Black magic all over it, he brought a fresh prospective to what I think is the closing in chapter of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead of the opening chapter of Phase Two. To me there is a great sense of closure in this chapter that brings everything full circle, while making us wonder what does the future hold for Tony Stark? Questions which will not be answered until The Avengers 2.
After the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (played once again played by Robert Downey Jr.) is haunted by those climatic events that happened in New York. Feeling small and powerless, he builds suits to help curb his insomnia and keep his mind at ease. Pepper Potts (played once again by Gwyneth Paltrow) and Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (played again by Don Cheadle) worry about Tony, while dealing with their respective problems. Meanwhile, The Mandarian (played by Ben Kingsley) wreaks havoc upon the free world bringing forth people from Tony’s past, Maya Hensen (played by Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (played by Guy Pearce) calling Tony to action once again.
What I love is how helpless Tony is throughout this movie. We start with him perfecting his new Mark 42 armor which constantly fails him and he has to throughout the film rely on his wits rather than his armor. And that’s what I love about Shane’s screenplay is that Tony’s journey in this is discovering that Tony Stark is extraordinary not the armor. Rhodey also goes through this discovery as well and my favorite part of the film is where we see these two friends work together to save the day powerless.
Which brings me to my next point, which is I loved seeing the relationships grow between Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau), Pepper, and Rhodey. Especially the last two. Pepper is busy running Stark Enterprises and Rhodey is busy fighting terrorism on behalf of the government as the Iron Patriot as War Machine was too aggressive and after The Avengers, the government needed a red, white, and blue hero. Tony is told by Rhodey not to get involved in Mandarian business because it’s not “superhero stuff” that government needs him for. But once Happy gets in his crosshairs,”it’s good ole’ fashioned revenge”. What I love is we see Tony checking out scenes of the crime, trying to piece things together like he is Batman, except with more urgency and less technology.
Shane Black brings renewed energy with his direction and screenplay. As with almost all of Black’s stories, Iron Man Three takes place during Christmas. And just like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, when Rhodey and Tony are together its pure magic. This is what I missed seeing from the previous two Iron Man films, is seeing the genuine friendship between these two characters. They were both made assholes in 2, it was hard to understand why they were friends in the first place but here you see comrades being the best of buds. Also, building on the foundation laid in 2 and The Avengers, we see Pepper and Tony’s relationship continue to grow ever the more complicated as Tony is too wrapped up in building armor and it is killing their relationship in which two people who love each other are being weighed down by a man’s growing obsession. Black also brings a sense of that we have gone full circle in this film, with a sense of closure to not only Iron Man, but to The Avengers as well as this seems to be the perfect epilogue in a saga that we have been invested in since 2008. And everything is paid off nicely in this film including Tony’s narration which we find out in the post-credits scene just who he’s talking to. And please do not the trailers fool you; there are plenty of funny, humorous moments in this film with Black’s trademark humor. Especially the plot twist with The Mandarian. My only problem is the plot twist with the Vice President, which you can see coming a mile away due to the actor playing him and the fact that it comes out of nowhere as an afterthought. I see why they did it cause of Extremis, but it felt crow barred in.
All in all this is very solid. The Avengers still has it beat, but this comes in as a strong second for Marvel Studios’ best so far. Don’t worry Joss, The Avengers still has more action than this. Also, I got to say Disney is really letting Marvel have free reign when it comes to violence. Everyone was shooting everyone and getting blown up in that gritty Shane Black way, that seriously pushed the PG-13 rating on this so parents beware. I really can’t wait to check this out again. Come November, Thor: The Dark World has a lot to live up to. And if it is RDJ’s last time in the suit it feels right for him to go out on this one.