THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Iron Man 3 was the first film to release following The Avengers and marked the beginning of ‘Phase Two’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys), the film is arguably the most controversial film in the MCU.
Iron Man 3 continues the story of Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who challenges a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), whilst dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder following the events of The Avengers.
Before I discuss THAT twist, the twist which, quite frankly, pissed off an entire fanbase, I will talk about what Iron Man 3 does right. Firstly, the opening 35 minutes of Iron Man 3, is the MCU at its very best. It does a brilliant job of establishing the tone and considering the rather sarcastic nature of Tony Stark, is surprisingly dramatic. As for The Mandarin, he comes across as terrifying, contemporary villain. Much of that is down to Ben Kingsley’s enthralling performance, as he steals every scene he is in (as The Mandarin).
Another aspect where the film excels at is the visual spectacle. Iron Man 3 is a gorgeous film, thanks to the veteran cinematographer, John Toll. Toll, whose work includes jaw-droppingly beautiful films such as The Thin Red Line, The Last Samurai and Cloud Atlas, has helped to create a film which is easily one of the most visually stunning amongst the MCU, and the comic book genre as a whole. He makes good use of lighting which emphasises that this is a darker version of Iron Man.
The script, by Drew Pierce and Shane Black, is great. The humour is of a consistent tone with the other Iron Man films, something which needs to be praised considering the different tones present in typical Jon Favreau films compared to Shane Black films.
Iron Man 3 is easily the most action-heavy Iron Man film, with several memorable sequences. The CGI is vastly superior to the previous films and the advanced CGI adds a greater sense of realism to the frankly, ridiculous set pieces.
As for Shane Black, he creates a brilliant film with Iron Man 3. However, it has often been criticised for being too unique within the MCU. There is definitely a case to be made with that criticism, however, it is all tied to THAT twist. Ultimately, Iron Man 3 is a great Shane Black film, filled with the typical wit that you’d expect from one of his films.
Of course, the performances are, for the most part, great. Downey Jr. continues to prove how perfect he is in the role which revitalised his career. Gywenth Paltrow remains excellent opposite Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau has a hilarious but unfortunately limited role. The rest of the cast are fine, however, Guy Pearce is rather generic as Aldrich Killian. Ben Kingsley steals the spotlight through the first hour and a half of the film. The Mandarin is quite frankly terrifying, with clear similarities to 9/11 mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.
It’s time to address THAT twist. The twist which pissed off a fanbase and frustrated even casual audiences. Ben Kingsley does not play The Mandarin. He plays an actor playing The Mandarin. I’m not exactly sure what went through the head of whoever made that decision but it is terrible. It’d be like a Batman origin film arriving at the moment where he is supposed to finally embraces his persona as Batman, but instead turns to the camera and says “Nah”. It completely ruins an exceptional performance from Kingsley and sacrifices a great villain for a rather cliched villain in the form of Aldrich Killian. The twist takes the typically terrifying villain and turns him into a joke. It’s no wonder fans were so furious after leaving Iron Man 3.
Another negative is that after the impressive opening 35 minutes, the film strands Tony with quite possibly the most insufferable character in the MCU, portrayed by Ty Simpkins. Ty Simpkins doesn’t do a bad job, it’s just his character is written in a way that is supposed to be funny but instead is just plain annoying. I sorta feel bad for him as his two most famous roles (Iron Man 3, Jurassic World), require him to be the typical, annoying kid that gets in the way.
The film also wastes the talents of both Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce. Neither of them gets worthwhile material to work with. Hall’s character ends up being nothing more than a minor supporting role, whilst Pearce’s Aldrich Killian comes across as too cartoonish and easily a weaker villain compared to Kingsley’s Mandarin.
Lastly, the film introduces Tony’s fragile relationship with Pepper, only to fix it rather easily. That is not the problem here. The problem is the method of which the relationship is fixed. Tony in a bid to prove his love, destroys all of his suits and vows to retire from superhero life. This is ultimately worthless as the pair have eventually separated off-screen by Captain America: Civil War (even though they are back together as of Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Tony never actually retires, as by his next appearance in the MCU, Avengers: Age of Ultron, he has several suits and remains a prominent member of the Avengers.
Iron Man 3 is a fantastic Shane Black film but a poor MCU film. The twist really hurts both the entertainment and reputation of Iron Man 3. However, there is still plenty of fun to be had with Shane Black’s only entry into the MCU.