|Tony Stark and friend|
Which isn't to say that Iron Man 3 isn't enjoyable, or that it isn't a vast improvement over the second installment. As directed and co-written by action icon Shane Black, Iron Man 3 is a great time at the movies, delivering all the thrills, laughs and fun you expect from these types of films. But Black and Downey also deliver something a little more, which is an examination of Tony Stark in the aftermath of the world-shaking events of The Avengers. Granted, it doesn't go much beyond a rather shallow depiction of PTSD, but that's still more depth than the customary summer blockbuster provides, and Downey owns Stark so much by this point, that he gives the character enough subtlety to communicate a lot without saying much.
That Iron Man 3 does this without falling all over itself to be "gritty" or "dark" (in the wake of Nolan's Bat trilogy) and still manages to be the kind of fun thrill-ride at which the Marvel movies excel speaks to the deftness of Black as a screenwriter.
The story begins with Stark grappling with the emotional fallout from the battle in New York. He cannot sleep, is distancing himself from both Stark Industries and lover Pepper Potts (Gywneth Paltrow), and has been throwing himself into improving his Iron Man suits. He has integrated more technology into his body, which allows the suit parts to launch themselves from across distances to assemble on his body with the flick of a wrist. But the world is also in turmoil, as mysterious and destructive terrorist attacks from an Bin Laden-esque figure known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) threaten the West, while a rival technological genius named Alldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) demonstrates that perhaps Stark is falling behind in innovation.
It's a nice set up to place Stark in. Metaphorically in the course of this story, he gets chucked back in to the cave from the first film, forced to rely on his ingenuity and a box of scraps to get him back in the game, overcoming shaky confidence for the first time in the franchise. While the outcome is never really in doubt, it's fun to watch as arrogant a protagonist as Stark come close to believing he really doesn't have what it takes. While on this journey, there's a great sequence where Stark befriends a young boy (Ty Simpkins). Normally, I shudder when a cutesy kid is shoe-horned into a movie like this, but Downey and Black's acerbic wit, combined with genuine chemistry between Simpkins and Downey, made this my favourite part of the whole film.
The film manages to take a few narrative twists and turns that I didn't expect, and that were by and large successful, including one dynamite twist that I loved. So, while Iron Man 3 didn't break the mould at all, it is top-notch summer film entertainment. If you go in simply looking for a fun time at the movies, you will not be disappointed.