This movie couldn’t have any more weight on its shoulders. Not only would it start of blockbuster season of 2013 but will have to follow from The Avengers. That’s a huge task to tackle but Marvel hired Shane Black, writer/director of action films such as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black seems more of a natural filmmaker than Jon Favreau (if you have seen Bang Bang, you will know that Black and Downey Jr. are a match made perfect). This film is essentially what you’d expect from an Iron Man movie and that entirely depends whether you see it as a good thing or bad thing.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to bring such charisma to Tony Stark, he really does make this movie work in terms on rooting for the protagonist. Stark is dealing with a personal issue; since his near death experience in The Avengers, he’s been having post traumatic stress (reference to our feelings after 9/11, even Stark says “hasn’t been the same since New York”). It’s an interesting factor that weighs on Tony Stark’s shoulders, almost identical to his alcoholism in the comics (which I thought it would lead up to it). Though the tone and the way they treat Tony’s PTS is very bi-polar; they bring it up like this will affect him and bring him down, but it then it gets treated as a comedy later in the film and doesn’t really get resolved or goes nowhere. Gwenyth Paltrow finally gets to do something useful as Pepper Potts, she’s essentially the sensible one out of the cast (whether you see that as a positive as a female character or a joy kill for Tony Stark). The rest of the characters are serviceable, Don Cheadle is basically Tony Stark’s Murtaugh (which Shane Black writes brilliantly with Stark and Rhodes) but Rebecca Hall’s character feels more of a plot device than a supporting character. There is not much I can say before ruining the surprise twist but if you have seen the film, you know what I’m talking about. I won’t say much about it but I will say I did not see it coming and I thought it was an interesting twist that was refreshing (though I won’t be surprised that a lot comic book/Iron Man fans will feel the character has been treated in a disrespectful way).
The film does contain great set-pieces, especially with the mid-air rescue with Iron Man and Air Force One crew. The final climactic battle scene with the Iron Man suits is really fun to watch and really interesting to see the different type of Iron Man suits Stark had created. Though it’s almost interesting to see what Pacific Rim will be able to deliver in terms of men in iron suits. I was very impressed how much Marvel Studios allowed to have Tony out of his suit for the majority of the running time (same as I was impressed with The Dark Knight Rises on having Bruce Wayne not wear the Bat-suit a lot). It actually showed Tony still being the genius he is on being able to do what he does best without the suit (as Obediah Stane said in Iron Man to scientist having trouble replicating one of Tony Stark’s creations; “TONY STARK WAS ABLE TO BUILD THIS IN A CAVE WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!”).
Although the film doesn’t really soar to the skies as it really just goes on autopilot for the most part. The villains in the Iron Man movies haven’t really been memorable and the villain’s motive in this movie is just being power hungry. Granted Tony Stark finally is given a worthy adversary that isn’t another man in an iron suit (a huge disappointment in Iron Man 2 and a waste of Mickey Rourke’s talent). It doesn’t detract the quality of the movie but there are plenty of other comic book movies that you can compare and they don’t add anything new or interesting to separate itself from the others. Another thing that makes the movie fall apart (almost) is Tony Stark’s thinking has gone backwards after The Avengers; he decides to respond to The Mandarin’s video threats by threatening him and also giving out his home address. Though he is still surprised when The Mandarin does respond by sending attack helicopters to destroy his home and doesn’t have any back-up plan (something you’d think Tony would have been prepared for, as Jarvis mentioned that he has been awake for 72 hours).
Overall; a fun sequel to Iron Man and a good start to 2013 blockbuster season. Light-years better than Iron Man 2 but still think Joss Whedon did a better job on writing Tony Stark/Iron Man in The Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. does what he does best and the rest of the cast are having fun with their roles. Shane Black does deliver wit but also the spectacle. It’s a shame it’s just a decent blockbuster than a great one. Your turn Man of Steel!
3 out of 5
p.s. Stay after the closing credits (but you already knew that, right?)