It has been eight long years since Shane Black unleashed his hilarious little crime comedy known as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” into theaters. Black was a surprising replacement for Jon Favreau as director of “Iron Man 3.” Not because Black wasn’t up to the task, but a big blockbuster film like “Iron Man 3” was just a fascinating way to follow up Black’s directorial debut. There’s a lot for “Iron Man 3” to cover; how the events in The Avengers have affected Tony Stark (the returning Robert Downey Jr), the new terrorist villain The Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley), Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) dropping the War Machine for Iron Patriot, and witnessing what Tony’s new Mark XLII armor can really do. Then there’s the undying question on whether or not a third film in a franchise is any good or not. Will it be better than the last sequel? Can it live up to the first film? Shane Black throws even more sharp wit, laugh out loud humor, ingenious ideas, and even a few unexpected twists and turns into an already well established and beloved superhero franchise.
The events of Los Angeles have been affecting Tony Stark more than he lets on. He’s been up for three days straight and spends night and day expanding his armory. In 1999, Tony snubbed a nerdy and somewhat handicapped scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who wants Tony’s assistance and support for Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). In the present day, Aldrich is a brand new man and AIM has developed the Extremis program, which allows users to heal from extreme injuries. But if the host rejects Extremis, their body gets massively hot and they detonate like an unstable explosive. At the same time, a terrorist mastermind known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has taken over the airwaves and claims that he will kill the President of the United States. As Tony struggles with unpredictable anxiety attacks and keeping Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) safe, he realizes he can no longer stand by and do nothing when security chief Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is caught in the blast of a terrorist attack.
If you’re a fan of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” then the opening narration will immediately bring you back to that film. Shane Black has also written the “Lethal Weapon” films, “The Monster Squad,” and “Last Action Hero.” That buddy cop dynamic really has a chance to shine in “Iron Man 3” during the last half hour or so. So not only is it full of action, but the humor and amusing conversation is amplified.
The film doesn’t shy away from using the advanced technology you’ve come to expect from these films. Tony rebuilds Happy’s crime scene with the technology at Stark Industries, but Aldrich utilizes three small ball bearings that project things like the inside of his brain which is seemingly accessible anywhere and anytime. There are several references to “The Avengers” and even one to “Thor.” Stick around for the after-credits scene for another little gem.
The really big action sequences seem to be even bigger this time around. Tony’s mansion being demolished is extraordinary, especially when the film switches to a first person perspective and you see something like Tony Stark in the Mark XLII suit being trapped underwater by falling debris. It’s intense. The Air Force One sequence is also just incredible. How Tony saves that many people is pretty creative. There was news floating around that Joss Whedon was so impressed with the ending to “Iron Man 3” that he has no idea how to top it for “The Avengers 2.” The finale features some of the most visually impressive and structurally satisfying action sequences to be featured in any superhero film to date.
It would feel criminal not to mention Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce in this review. Kingsley is fantastic. The Mandarin role is a complex one, but Kingsley puts this fantastic spin on the character that comic book fans will either find extremely gratifying or completely blasphemous. Pearce isn’t quite as despicable or scene demanding as he was in “Lawless,” but he proves once again that he knows how to portray a memorable antagonist.
“Iron Man 3” is nearly as good if not completely on par with the original “Iron Man.” It’s innovative, hilarious, and crafted in the same vein of the first film. The closing act is so ridiculously good and gratifying that it’ll give you goosebumps. Robert Downey Jr electrifies in the Tony Stark role yet again. Now that Shane Black has proven that he’s more than capable of delivering yet another funny, witty, and extremely enjoyable film, can somebody please get this guy to direct more than one film every eight years?
“Iron Man 3” is playing in conventional, 3D, RealD 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters starting today, May 3.