Jaded Stark is Superlative

86128003SR: Perfect script meets perfect cast meets ultimate finale to a much loved franchise. RDJ proves Tony Stark is Iron Man to the core.

Iron Man 3

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow,Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau

Directed by Shane Black

Written by Shane Black, Drew Pearce (based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Larry Lieber; based on the comic book run Extremis by Warren Ellis)

Action, Adventure. 2hr 10mins. M – contains violence

****1/2

It feels good knowing Hollywood takes its superheroes as seriously as I do. Iron Man 3 carries all the hallmarks – from cracking ideas to razor sharp dialogue, to thrilling special effects – of love rather than duty, a rare find in any sequel, let alone the second.

Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is not coping with fame, the third installment of the Iron Man franchise reveals.

He hasn’t slept properly since saving the world on a wing and superheroic prayer – in 2012 mega hit The Avengers – and the strain is starting to show.

Meanwhile, the Mandarin, a terrorist with a shady agenda and an Osama Bin Laden fixation, is gunning for the United States, blowing up hot spots with impossible devices.

When Stark’s sidekick, Happy (Jon Favreau), winds up collateral damage in one such attack, Stark throws down the metaphorical gauntlet and things get personal as, one by one, battling the Mandarin obliterates his allies and defenses.

It cannot be easy writing a fresh script for a character that has firm boundaries set by future Marvel Universe films. Some of the things that make Iron Man super can also limit your options as a writer.

Perhaps that’s why co-writer and director Shane Black, the godfather of 80s action flicks, seems uninterested in the superhero side of Stark.

“This isn’t superhero business,” Stark’s fellow mecha-suit wearer Colonel James Rhodes (Don Chedle) says, “this is American business”.

It could be the tagline for the whole film. Iron Man 3 goes on to peel back the steel and chrome – sometimes literally – to see what manner of Stark lies beneath.

I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say the Iron Man we expect is not the Iron Man that emerges from the ensuing high octane crazy. Same goes for his usually underutilised cohorts – Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a particular joy.

Black’s tongue-in-cheek juggling of grey-area politics and deft skill with dialogue also lend what could have been a superficial bag of superhero candy a lot of depth. If you don’t feel a little uncomfortable during the Mandarin’s “news breaks”, then you’re not awake to the world around you.

But ultimately the balance between wry social comment and glorious pyrotechnical action mayhem – all set with 80s panache in seedy bars, Floridian mansions and deserted docks – is Black’s gift to Iron Man 3 and that’s the kind of respect anyone can get behind.


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