Shane Black provides a contemplative slant on celebrity and terrorism while still delivering plenty of summer box office bang.
“You know who I am.”
Review by David Feltman
The “Iron Man” series has long been the flagship for Marvel’s massive movie undertaking and so far the films have been strong enough to support its weaker siblings. In the latest entry, indie director and Robert Downey Jr. collaborator Shane Black takes on directorial duties from Jon Favreau and provides a contemplative slant on celebrity and terrorism while still delivering plenty of summer box office bang.
The plot picks up from last year’s “The Avengers,” with Downey’s Tony Stark still coping with his near death experience. The scientifically savvy Stark shows signs of PTSD while trying to come to terms with the existence of comic book gods, magic and aliens. Despite being a villain traditionally defined by 10 magic rings, Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin is surprisingly grounded in reality. The change permits the series to keep its technological focus and gives Stark a foil that grants him an escape from the cosmic horrors that haunt him.
Black’s touch is immediately apparent with a fourth wall breaking “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” style voice over. The director makes it a point to separate Stark from his suit of armor for much of the film to emphasize his vulnerability and create a parallel between the malfunctioning armor and Stark’s mental instability. But in spite of the serious themes and a strong anti-military industrial complex message, Black manages to squeeze in enough humor and action to make the film’s 130-minute runtime blast by.
The Mandarin threatens to follow in the funny accented footsteps of Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises,” but between clever plotting and Kingsley’s masterful performance, the character manages to transcend the audience’s expectations. And while Stark spends most of his time jumping in and out of the armor then actually being Iron Man, Black throws more Iron Men at the screen than fans could ever hope for. If anyone was concerned about where the series might go without Favreau at the helm, rest assured that “Iron Man 3” is bigger, darker and funnier than its predecessors.