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Phase One of the Marvel Universe Cinematic was a massive success for Marvel Studios, leading to a Billion Dollar movie, The Avengers. Now Marvel has a new test for Phase Two, starting with Iron Man 3, with new blood being brought in the form writer/director Shane Black, who manages to import his comedy style to the comic book genre.
It has been months since the Chitauri invasion of New York and Tony Stark (Robert Downing Jr.) is haunted by the experience, having nightmares, panic attacks and staying up all night tinkering with his inventions. The result is he makes a suit that he can control with his mind. As this is going on, America is suffering from a new wave of attacks from a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), using explosives that seemingly have no traceable parts, forcing the American government to rebrand War Machine to The Iron Patriot. Even worst Stark past comes back to haunt him as a man he stubbed in 1999, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) creates a revolutionary bio-tech technology that could be the next leap for humanity, healing people with ease. But a side effect is it turns people into living weapons. When The Mandarin forces attack Stark’s home, Stark is only left with one damaged prototype suit with little power and he has to use all his knowledge and skill to find out what The Mandarin and Killian are up as they attack Stark’s loved ones as well as face up to his past.
Iron Man 3 does feel very much like a Shane Black movie, having his trademark style of dialogue and humor and uses a Christmas setting. It is to the point that Iron Man 3 becomes more a Black movie then a Marvel movie and a little bit like the Batman Returns of Marvel movies with its focus on Stark and his resourcefulness and the villains and less about Stark in his suits. Stark does keep his trademark wit and intelligence and Downey does make the role his own, like he’s done in the previous movies. But the other characters also get a fair share of the comedy.
Iron Man 3 is Black’s second movie as director and he shows a great confidence behind the camera. He keeps the Marvel look and style, while still managing to make a film that is completely his own movie and proves he can handle the special effects and action set pieces. Some of the fist fights and close quarter action were edited a too quickly, but that is made up for by the variety of action, particularly the final battle with the multiple Iron Man suits. Iron Man has very different threat to what he has had in the past, biologically altered super-heated people which have strength and the ability to melt metal: it is certainly different to men in iron suits and there are more menacing because of it. It also serves as a way to expand the type of sci-fi the Iron Man series can explore. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts also has a few moments where she gets to be a badass. On the action front, Iron Man 3 is the best in the series so far.
The trailers for Iron Man 3 made it out to be a very serious, darker affair, to the point that I personally nicknamed it “The Iron Man Rises”. But it was a bait and switch and Iron Man 3 is a very humorous movie throughout, having plenty of witty lines and well timed visual jokes. Black does a fine job at balancing out the comedy with the darker and serious scenes and elements, skills that Black developed since his early writing days, which makes for a fun blockbuster experience.
The biggest controversy that Iron Man 3 has to offer is the portrayal of Iron Man’s arch nemesis The Mandarin. Of course he was not going to be the “Fu Manchu” stereotype that he was in the comics and international politics (as well as film markets) have changed, so changes had to be made: but Black’s does take it to extremes as he puts his own spin on the character. Some may call it a clever postmodern twist, subverting conventions about villains and their portrayal in Hollywood movies, others will call it a betrayal of one of Marvels most famous villains.
Because of the change in world politics since Iron Man was first created and the theme about the War of Terror was used in the first movie Iron Man. The War of Terror theme has been brought back, The Mandarin acting like an Osama bin Laden like figure but Black and Marvel look at the hypocrisy of terrorist leaders who hides behind their ‘ideals’ whilst living in comfort and how they would use anything to try to morally justify their actions.
Iron Man 3 is a fine additional the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a solid follow up The Avengers. It is stronger then the previous entry in the Iron Man series which was too reliant on comedy and very character heavy. Shane Black does bring a fresh approach for the series and once again, Marvel Studios has begun the Summer blockbuster for 2013 on the right track.