The maiden voyage of Marvel’s “Phase Two” initiative comes in the form of Shane Black’s much-anticipated Iron Man 3, a.k.a. the (potentially) final go-round for Robert Downey Jr. in the titular role as billionaire playboy tech genius Tony Stark (barring The Avengers). While not as voluminous as others’, my personal level of anticipation frequently walked the fine line between lukewarm and fervent; a miniscule morsel of hope lingering deep in my subconscious longing for continued greatness within the mostly stellar Marvel canon. Although as amiable as you’d expect, Iron Man 3 simply didn’t come together as swiftly or at all as completely as I swore it could have.
For the uninformed, this third installment brings to life the renowned “Extremis” comic book story arc – one that focuses on an unstable technology created and harnessed by one Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) as the horrifying truth behind its effects and intended purpose are slowly revealed. Simultaneously tormented by a mysterious international terrorist figure known only as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), it’s up to Mr. Stark, his lovely live-in second-in-command Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) to act accordingly.
Despite the sustained intrigue at its narrative’s core, Iron Man 3 too frequently comes off as something self-indulgently steeped in tongue-in-cheek exposition – a production permeated with too-carefully positioned action set pieces if only to somewhat satisfy our needs as viewers. This isn’t to say that the script is at all inept as it’s quite the opposite, however Downey Jr.’s always apt “Stark Snark” delivery has officially run its course early on and throughout the fourth feature starring the armored Avenger. Sometimes effective and sometimes not, people like myself will ultimately gripe about this abundance of one-liners and lack of Iron Man himself, even though the central arc’s base elements pride themselves on taking the franchise in a different direction.
Unfortunately, different isn’t always better, and while the performances undeniably remain front and center, characters themselves are a bit overabundant and often rendered for naught as emotional vapidity tends to muck up the proceedings considerably. Side-stepping this fault at irregular intervals, Iron Man 3 is still just another reasonably involving chunk of the ongoing mythos coinciding with the popular Avenger’s now fifty-year-old string of varying exploits. It’s strange to consider and comprehend, yet something that’s easily noticed and missed all the same.
Before I inevitably get lambasted, let me just reiterate that I enjoyed Iron Man 3, plain and simple. Shane Black’s foray into the Marvel Universe isn’t great or even very good, but its steadfastness in adhering to its source material’s intricacies is quite admirable. Placing Stark himself in the spotlight if only to let him characteristically mouth off a bit too frequently, the film sports a requisite amount of action yet not enough of the title character – a necessary if intermittently disappointing evil required to stay true to its comic book roots. Well-intentioned, partly witty and engaging all the same, Iron Man 3 is definitely worth your time regardless of viewers’ varying levels of fandom and instances of simply falling flat.