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New Release Review - Iron Man 3

Tony Stark faces a new villain in the form of a terrorist known as "The Mandarin".


Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, James Badge Dale

Following his near-death experience in New York, as seen in 'The Avengers', Tony Stark (Downey Jr) has become something of an emotional and psychological wreck. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Paltrow) is on fragile ground as he obsesses over designing a new collection of armor suits which can be controlled remotely and summoned to attach to his body by hand gestures. Meanwhile, a seemingly middle-eastern based terrorist, The Mandarin (Kingsley), has been waging a war of terror against the U.S, detonating a series of explosions across the country. When Stark's head of security, Happy Hogan (Favreau) is injured in one such detonation, he loses his cool on live TV, giving The Mandarin his home address. This, unsurprisingly, results in the terrorist coming after Stark.
"Everything changed when the guy with the hammer fell out of the sky", remarks a character to Tony Stark in the latest Marvel summer blockbuster. He's referring of course to the character of Thor, seen in both his own movie and last year's smash hit 'The Avengers'. The appearance of a Norse God on planet Earth would make anyone feel insignificant and certainly someone, like Stark, previously charged with defending humanity through mortal means. It also poses problems for the writers of the next batch of 'Iron Man' films. Set against a world of Gods and aliens from other dimensions, how do you make your hero interesting when he's basically no more than a very talented engineer?
The answer is to entrust the character into the hands of Shane Black, once Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter and the scribe behind 'Lethal Weapon', 'The Last Boy Scout' and his directorial debut 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'. Rather than worry about the dynamics of the Marvel universe, Black turns this latest adventure into a Bob Hope style comedic caper with a character who is out of his depth for most of the film. Black's interpretation owes a lot to the under-rated John Carpenter classic, 'Big Trouble in Little China' in the sense that, despite his own arrogance, Stark is mostly ineffectual and relegated to side-kick status, ala Kurt Russell's 'Jack Burton'. The film's set-piece climax sees Stark acting chiefly as an onlooker, trying to look like he knows what he's doing but actually bungling everything he attempts.
It may feature the Marvel logo but, make no mistake, this is first and foremost a Shane Black movie, containing all his trademark elements. Christmas setting? Check. Household implement utilized as a weapon? Check. One-liners delivered at breakneck speed? Check. Downey Jr is the perfect vessel for Black's witty repartee, having starred in 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang', and here reminds you just how charismatic he can be in a good role. I haven't enjoyed him this much since 'Zodiac' and can almost forgive him for the travesty of his 'Sherlock Holmes' interpretation. The movie's second, and funniest, act is basically a buddy movie, pairing Stark with a precocious kid. The brilliance is that it parodies such a plot device with a series of put-downs Dorothy Parker would be proud of. Downey Jr seems to relish the quips he's been provided.
There are a couple of plot points which don't hold up well to scrutiny but the comic approach means you give the film a pass. The tone Black injects has more in common with the Avengers of UK sixties TV rather than their Marvel namesakes, more Adam West than Christian Bale. Marvel purists will probably be aghast at what he's done to the material, especially the treatment of The Mandarin, but the rest of will be happy to have a comic book movie that's, well, comic.
8/10

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