Truth be told, this is one superhero film this year I wasn’t really looking forward to. I mean I LOVE the first film, and I didn’t even hate the second one even with its set of flaws. But I guess I’m just a bit worn out with the character of Tony Stark himself, his snarky cool edge that was so fun to watch before is just getting stale. But thanks to writer/director Shane Black, somehow he manages to win me over with his direction style. Here are just some things he did right:
1. Black and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce came up with a thrilling story that doesn’t dwell too much on the rich-billionaire syndrome. I mean we’ve seen all that, so no need to keep rehashing that fact. We see the frivolous party-animal part of Tony Stark in a flashback at the beginning, but shortly after that, he’s plucked out of his elements. It’s a fish-out-of-water story of sort, as Tony ends up being stranded in a snowy small town in Tennesse.
2. The burning question for this particular superhero, perhaps more so than any other Marvel superhero is this: Does the suit make the man or the man made the suit? In the Film School Rejects interview Shane Black and exec. producer Kevin Feige, the interviewer said, “…you seem as interested in having Tony out of the Iron Man armor as in it”. Here’s Black’s answer:
I want the Iron Man stuff to have impact. And if he’s always in the suit doing stuff, it doesn’t have any impact. If every once in a while he gets just a piece of the suit and POW! he launches a bolt and somebody goes flying 20 feet through the air, but it burns him to do it, that has impact.
I think that’s a wise move right from the get go, having such a strong vision for the character and make him the primary focus once again. I think Black succeeds in creating that delicate balance of seeing both persona of Tony Stark, making the most of Robert Downey Jr.‘s undeniable screen charisma that seems to only get better with age.
3. Going back to basics… but somehow makes the old feels new again. The reason I like the first film was because we see Tony as a real genius who’s seemingly thrive under even the most desperate circumstances with his ability to build something out of nothing. We see that MacGyver side of Tony here, how he somehow can still rise to the occasion outside of his state-of-the-art lab and without his loyal robotic butler Jarvis. Tony Stark actually has to shop at a Home Depot type of store like the rest of us, ahah. The ‘relationship’ between the hero and his Iron suit gets an even more amusing play here, which seems even more hilarious than ever before.
4. Shane Black is no stranger to buddy action-comedies. After all, he was the writer behind the Mel Gibson/Danny Glover action franchise Lethal Weapon. He’s also worked with RDJ in the wacky thriller-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where RDJ and Val Kilmer made a droll and quirky pair.
Here RDJ still has a great rapport with General Rhodes (Don Cheadle), that whole bit about War Machine having a more nationalistic name Iron Patriot delivers some laughs. But when Rhodes is not always around to swap snarky banters with, Black cast a precocious whiz boy (Ty Simpkins) as his sparring partner. The 11-year-old Simpkins is able to hold his own against the veteran actor, and their banter is fun to watch. I love how Tony is still being Tony regardless who he’s dealing with, not allowing anyone—no matter how old—to wallow in self-pity, including himself. It was an unlikely duo that works in the story.
5. Surprising twist on the villain that I didn’t see coming. Having a more realistic ‘real world’ adversary with the terrorism angle works well here instead of simply having another suited-armor nemesis. But there’s more than meets the eye here about the eccentric psychopath The Mandarin that still hit me out of left field. I think comic readers might not necessarily appreciate the alteration but I consider it to be a pleasant surprise that’s sooo entertainingly zany.
Perfect casting of Sir Ben Kingsley in that role, stealing scenes whenever he appears on-screen. The scene of him, Stark and Rhodes is definitely one of the major highlights, but the less I say about the character the better for the sake of your viewing enjoyment.
6. Guy Pearce looking cool and hunky for a change, instead of looking like 200 years old (Prometheus) or some follicly challenged gangster (Lawless). He’s not the kind of villain that takes himself too seriously, Aldrich Killian is a pretty cool name and Pearce plays him as a charming baddie that could easily match Downey’s quick wits. There’s a scene towards the finale that somehow reminds me of his breakthrough role in Memento, I don’t think it’s an homage or anything, it’s just something I picked up on. Pearce seems to have had a good time filming this and it shows!
7. Fun action set pieces but yet they’re not just some over-the-top and vapid bombastic shoot-em-ups (*cough* Die Hard 5 * cough*). The most memorable one, that you’ve likely seen in the trailer, is the relentless attack on Tony’s Malibu mansion. I remember marveling at that sprawling beach-front property in the first movie, and seeing it being destroyed to bits was wow, I’ve got to admit my heart sank a bit as I watched it.
The eye-popping special effects are to be expected. I still enjoy watching our armored hero shooting off to the sky, but this time, the flying sequence isn’t so much about Iron Man looking hip and cool on the air, but more about what he can do with that gift. Ultimately, it’s Tony’s sharp thinking that does the saving, not simply the power of that suit itself.
8. Robert Downey Jr.’s consistent dedication to the role is one of the main factors the franchise hasn’t lost its juice. Everything we’ve come to know and love about the character is all there, Tony’s flair for the theatrics, his nerdy obsession with his robotic toys, and his snarky prowess is still firing on all cylinders. Yet somehow under Black’s direction, it feels fresh, sprightly, and endearingly self-deprecating. I think the key here is showing the character’s vulnerability and contrast that with his larger-than-life billionaire antics.
There are countless hysterical scenes where things don’t go according to plan for Tony. Even in the moment he needs it most, his invention can still let him down, and that sense that our hero isn’t always so invincible makes him more human, and in some ways more relatable.
9. But also not ‘too relatable’ as we go to see a superhero movies for escapist entertainment. Iron Man 3 is by no means a dark and gloomy affair (I don’t know why some reviewers equate this with The Dark Knight) as I don’t think it would fit the essence of Tony Stark if they go that route. There are dark moments to be sure, but the mirthful tone is intact and plenty of geeky gadgetry to keep the superhero geek massively entertained. Black & co. never forgets that at its heart, Marvel superhero movies are popcorn entertainment and on that front, it certainly delivers!
10. The returning characters are given a bit more to do here. Retiring from directing duties (but still serves as exec. producer), Jon Favreau is quite amusing as the head of security of Stark Industries. I wish Rebecca Hall has more screen time but still, it’s nice to see her here alongside Gwyneth Paltrow (who’s not even the most beautiful woman in this movie, let alone the world, heh). That said, I kind of like that Stark’s love interest is not just a damsel in distress in this one which makes Pepper Potts a bit more interesting than in the previous installments.
Perhaps having a tepid expectations helps me enjoy this more than I otherwise would, as the movie is definitely not without flaws. Just to name a few, the motivation of the super-villain’s descent to madness is too much of a stretch and the loud clanging and bombastic mayhem of the third act can be quite dizzying. But overall, those who haven’t become too cynical or jaded by superhero movies would be hard pressed not to enjoy this one.
Though the iron suit sometimes run out of juice in this movie, thankfully the Iron Man franchise still has plenty of that in its third installment. I wouldn’t rate this as high as other stellar “threequels” like the Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a solid addition to the lucrative Marvel canon.
4 out of 5 reels
What did you think folks? Does this one meet YOUR expectations?
53 thoughts on “10 Reasons Iron Man 3 Exceeds My Expectations”
I already have my ticket for this at Disney’s showcase venue, El Capitan Theatre. Can’t wait! Thanks, Ruth.
Awesome. Hope you enjoy this one Michael.
Finished watching IM3 a couple of hours ago. Honestly I’m still processing it. I definitely liked it but I’m still struggling with how much. It throws a lot at you so there’s a lot to think about.
I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it and it could’ve easily been a ‘meh’ kind of movie. Thankfully that’s not the case. I agree that it ‘threw a lot at you’ though 😀
I really liked the movie, not more than the other 2, in fact I had a bit more fun during the second one as here those flaming eyes and Rebecca Hall’s short screen time were…disappointing. I loved the nod to Downton Abbey!
Yeah too bad Hall’s scenes were so brief! Oh right, I forgot to mention the DA nod, that was fun. Glad you enjoyed the movie, Sati. I thought Guy was pretty hunky here 😉
Great post, especially agree about the Mandarin twist, it may have upset some comic fans but I thought it was a wonderfully unexpected turn. Definitely exceeded my expectations too overall 🙂
Thanks Andy, glad you feel the same way. I thought it was brilliant to cast someone like Kingsley to play that role, I’m glad I didn’t know anything about it beforehand.
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I cannot wait to see this one, Ruth. I’m glad you liked how dedicated Downey Jr. is to Iron Man. He has been very strong in this role and he has made it his own prolonging the legacy of the Marvel character tenfold. Great post! 🙂
Hi Vic! They really lucked out in getting someone as charismatic as RDJ for this role and it certainly paid off big time. He’s certainly one of the major reasons of the franchise’s success.
Just saw it earlier tonight and thought it was great, I’m glad that Favrau didn’t want to come back and direct this one and the duties went to Shane Black; the franchise needed a new set of creative eyes after the second film. I pretty much agree with everything on your list there. The film reminded me so much of Lethal Weapon 2, there were so many scenes in this film that reminded of Lethal 2, in fact I think Stark was kind of like Martin Riggs in this one. I didn’t have problem with Pearce’s character motivation, somehow he reminded me of Syndrome from The Incredibles. A uncool guy who invented something powerful and now he thinks of himself as a cool person like Stark, except he wants to rule the world and kill a bunch of people.
Hey, glad to hear it Ted! I’ve always liked buddy action comedies and it really works for Iron Man. Ah, I didn’t see the similarities to the Incredibles, I suppose that’s true. It’s not really a major quibble for me, besides I quite like Pearce in this role and he had fun w/ it.
We seem to agree on this one and I’m glad. I had lukewarm expectations about this one as well, Ruth. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much!
Ahah yeah, we both had lukewarm expectations on this one, but it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised 😀
Great post, fair score 😀
“Does the suit made the man or the man made the suit?” Isn’t it make?
Ahah, good catch there Tim, touche 😀 I’ve fixed it now, thanks!
You are welcome 😀
Its a nice post, Ruth, and you lay out a lot of nice elements. You take some really positive spins on things I wouldnt have.
That said, this movie was a huge let down for me.
Oh bummer, but you still gave it a B though, so you must have such a high expectation for this. I actually didn’t expect it to be a stellar movie, esp. given how I feel about the character. But somehow Shane Black made it feel fresh and fun with snappy dialog and brilliant casting.
I’m not really looking forward to this one myself. At least I wasn’t. Based on your post, I’ll probably actually see it 🙂
Hey, I wasn’t either Paula. I didn’t even post the trailer here at all. I think it’s worth seeing on the big screen, maybe a matinee if you don’t want to play full price 😀
Great post, Ruth! My husband just saw this with a buddy, and he really liked it. He said it was as good as the first Iron Man movie and far exceeded the second. I will definitely watch it when it comes to DVD. By the way, I didn’t realize this movie had such a great cast: Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce … I’m starting to be tempted to see it in the theater. 🙂
I’d think this one would be worth seeing for the ensemble cast Steph. I’m glad they got Sir Ben Kingsley here though initially I was skeptical about his casting. It turns out to be so perfect.
Brilliant post Ruth! I watched this today and I enjoyed it. I didn’t think there was a huge amount of substance to the main plot but I thought the dialogue was brilliant and everyone played their roles really well.
Hi Chris, glad you saw this and had fun. Yeah, the plot is not deep by any means, and I didn’t expect it to be like Nolan’s Batman flicks. I think the key to Iron Man is the witty dialog and it certainly delivers on that front and then some.
High praise Ruth. I can’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm for this, though. I’m really not that big on superhero stuff and the summer movies really turn me off a bit. It’s during this time that I catch up on older stuff and build up reviews of film’s that I’ve been dying to see and also reviews of re-watches. I generally hate summer season at the movies.
Fair enough Mark. I personally like to balance my movie watching with indies and blockbuster movies, and I’m a big fan of superhero films so I’m not jaded yet 😀 Well the nice thing about movies is there are sooo many to see outside of what Hollywood’s offering, so I’m sure you won’t be missing out if you decide to catch up on older films.
Hi! 🙂 I’m nedi and have seen you among Fogs comments and thought I would stop by…
I loved it! And yes, Black does make it feel fresh–which was much needed after IM2. But, this is RDJ’s show–he is brilliant and made to play Stark. He is always a pleasure to watch.
Love the set up for your review! 😀
Hello Nedi, welcome to FC! Glad you agree that this is a fun movie n yes it’s definitely RDJ’s show but it’s always the case w/ this franchise. Thanks for your comment, hope to see you around here again 😃
I quite enjoyed although probably a little less than you did. I think that the buddy action thing could have been bigger, but it was an enjoyable flick overall.
Glad to hear Nostra. I thought the buddy action stuff is just the right amount for me as the focus is always on Iron Man, but yeah, very entertaining indeed.
Glad you enjoyed it, Ruth. I should see it later this week.
Robert Downey Jr. was my favorite part of The Avengers, so I can’t wait to see him back as Stark. I’m also thrilled that Rebecca Hall has a role in a film this big, because we both know she needs to get more leading roles after this. 😉
It was an alright time at the movies for me. I loved Ben Kingsley and Robert Downey Jr is always to be relied on but overall I still think 1 is best followed by this one and 2 being last. I too was a bit let down by Rebecca Hall’s role in the film. I like her and wished there was more for her to do.
Oh I agree Iba, I think the first one is still the best for me too, kinda like Batman Begins is still my fave of the Batman trilogy. I wish Hall had a bigger role but ah well, at least it was still nice to see her getting cast here. I do like Guy Pearce here looking sooo fine 😀
Great list and a perfect way to express what you loved about the film. This really encapsulates what made the film so entertaining. Nice job!
Cool post, Ruth. I must admit I am a little surprised at the unanimous praise this one has been getting. It seems most superhero sequels run out of steam by the third one. I’ll probably check it out at some point, as I did really enjoy the first film.
Hey, I’m as surprised as you are Eric. As I said here, I wasn’t even remotely anticipating this movie so I guess it was a big pleasant surprise to me, hence the high rating. It’s similar to The Last Stand, a movie I never thought would be entertaining and I ended up having such a great time watching it. I don’t think I wanna see Iron Man 4 though, enough is enough!
Wow Ruth, you really put a different spin on reviewing this film. Love it. Still haven’t had a chance to go see it but you’ve made some strong points. Now I REALLY want to go see it.
Hey thanks!! That means a lot coming from you, your review style is one of the most creative out of the blogs I read and so easy to digest. Sometimes I got stuck in a rut of reviewing things so changing the structure actually made it easier for me to write it 😀
I think it’s fun, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Chris!
Me too, I hope I love it. Thanks for the compliments by the way! You’ve made my day! 🙂
has this been Redditted?
Hey, I only said it ’cause it’s true 😀 Yes it has, thank you for asking. Appreciate your support man.
I didn’t have my expectations set too high because I was afraid I’d ruin it for myself because sequels are usually gradually worse but I was freaking amazed! The film was awesome and all your points are valid – I especially love the one about RDJ being all in because he i s Tony Stark and that’s just amazing.
Hi Elena! You’re right, sequels are often worse, esp. threequel, but this one beats the odds. RDJ owns this role and he’s been fittingly rewarded for it thus far.
I hear what you’re saying here, Ruth. and while we have the same score, some of the things that were fun for you were not so much for me.
and I didn’t really like the whole Guy Pearce villain aspect (Aldrich Killean turned into Batman Forever’s Edward Nigma)…seen it before.
all in all though I still liked the movie. Nice review! But I will def be okay if this is the last solo Iron Man film, honestly
Hey that’s ok to disagree, T. I honestly didn’t even know if I’d even like this movie as I wasn’t really anticipating it. Ahah, I didn’t really see Killian in that way, I guess I was um, distracted by Guy’s hunkiness 😀
Oh yeah, I hope this is the end for Iron Man movies! I want to see other superhero like The Flash that never seem to get off the ground! 😦
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This is actually my favourite of the three Iron Man films and I think you’ve probably hit on all the reasons why. I love the Mandarin’s character development and Ben Kingsley plays it beautifully, the decision to have a child sidekick could have been a disaster but it worked well and RDJ is brilliant as Stark.
Iron Man might be able to go on without RDJ, but Tony Stark can’t.
Ben Kingsley is just superb here. “Lawrence Oblivier” I LOVE that line and it so fits his character perfectly!!
“Iron Man might be able to go on without RDJ, but Tony Stark can’t.” Be that as it may, I think they should stop while they’re ahead and NOT make any more Iron Man movies for at least 10 yrs or so.
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