Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Ritchie, Rebecca Hall with Jon Favreau and Ben Kingsley
Plot: While Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) struggles after the battle in New York, the Mandarin launches a terrorist vendetta against the President.
My expectations were so high for this film. Iron Man appears to have done the impossible and become the number one Marvel superhero, in my opinion, beating fan-favourite Spiderman, and trumping Wolverine (narrowly, I add). He just peppers (haha, accidental puns are the best), jokes into every part of the script, filling any scene he is in with brilliant tongue in cheek humour. Add that to an awesome trailer and you have packed cinemas all across the world, anxiously waiting to see what director Shane Black has got for us.
The film opens with the Mandarin launching several terrorist attacks in hopes to get to the President. Some of the scenes might hit a little close to home, especially the grainy camera feed of innocents being mowed down by Middle-Eastern thugs. In response to this, War Machine has been renamed Iron Patriot and is hopelessly trying to track him down. Meanwhile, Tony Stark, is completely ignoring the Mandarin, more focused on his inability to sleep after the events of Avengers Assemble and his frequent anxiety attacks. However, then the Mandarin goes after Stark and finds himself up against a very vengeful Iron Man.
What was interesting about this film is that it took a different tone than most of the other Iron Mans. With the exception of an awesome CGI-crazy battle to end the movie, Stark is left without his suit to protect him. He must fight the Mandarin’s forces with his wits and some fantastic one-liners. It almost feels like a Bond film, in the Pierce Brosnan days, where crazy technological gadgets were constantly involved. This isn’t necessarily a bad change (I liked the tone), but some fans might be a little disappointed that there is more Stark than Iron Man. Even when he gets the suit, he often only has a leg of it to play with. It makes for some interesting set-pieces and some clever, thought-out fight sequences.
What really makes this film fun to watch is, as ever, Downey Jr. He is on form as Iron Man, three movies worth of whittling down the character and getting him right. Even expositional scenes that would have come across dull are made lively with his perfect timing and wit. It is definitely needed, because the plot takes a turn that separates Tony from the rest of the cast. It focuses on how abandoned his character has become, which although a good move, means that we aren’t going to see as much Pepper Potts, Jarvis and his fun, little robot buddies as we would have liked. Don Cheadle just manages to get a fair amount of screen time, also seen getting a chance to fight outside the suit. These absences of characters aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it’s a good idea to go in, expecting Gwyneth Paltrow to take a back seat for most of the movie (she makes up for it, when she is on the screen, however).
This film also has more villains than ever before. Ben Kingsley takes the role of the Mandarin, sounding incredibly menacing with his rough American accent. I know very little about the Mandarin, other than a few whispers of dread around the Marvel Universe. I was expecting a lot from this character. Then we have Guy Ritchie, as Killian, who is perfect, as the sleazy businessman, with a vendetta against Tony Stark. He delivers each line perfectly and the final fight between him and Stark is fantastic.
The standard henchmen are also cleverly thought out too. They have the power to regenerate, making the Wolverine look like a wimp. However, due to the biological process going on with their bodies, they do have a nasty habit of exploding and torching everyone in the blast radius. Black plays around with this idea and gives the viewer some fantastic set-pieces. He also creates good villains in James Badge Dale’s Eric Savin and Stephanie Szostak’s Ellen Brandt. The battle in Tennessee is clever, fun to watch and god damn amusing.
Sadly, the weak part of the movie is found on Rebecca Hall. Her character feels like a side note to the whole film. Sure, it is her formula that creates the bad guy’s plan, yet after the formula is introduced, she just feels like a side-note. I feel that a new actress was needed; Hall never seemed to really embody the character, which was apparent when she was next to Downey Jr or Guy Pierce. The script does do something interesting with her character in the later chapters, but it isn’t as big a twist as it wanted to be. Luckily, there is enough going on to make that a small quibble in a massive blockbuster, but it is something that I felt needed improving on.
There is a twist midway through the film, which will stop you in your tracks. It is clever and personally I liked it, but, in a sense, it does make the trailer null-void. It also will annoy the hell out of any die-hard fans of the comics. However, it is done for all the right reasons and hopefully viewers will look past that and enjoy the film for what it is.
Final verdict: The best Iron Man yet, giving us great villains, a fantastic plot and of course, just more Tony Stark.