A Shane Black PG-13. Yeah, the rest of the MCU is all PG-13, but I associate Shane Black with a Shakespearean use of the f-bomb. I'm not saying that he used the f-bomb like Shakespeare used the f-bomb, but more along the lines of his use of the f-bomb tends to add color to his dialogue. While I tend to abhor unnecessary vulgarities, Shane Black always seems to make it work. But there's no f-bombs in here. There is some language. I think this is the first movie in the MCU to really feel comfortable with swearing. Also, the superhero violence in this movie just appears to be more graphic. People melt and explode and stuff. Also, the violence gets catastrophic at one point. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Shane Black
Why is this movie so polarizing? Honest to Pete, it might be one of my favorite entries in the entire MCU, but some people HATE this movie. I know. People have opinions. My opinion is not always considered dogma, but this movie works just so well. Part of what I think is going on here is that Iron Man 3 might be a bit of a departure from the rest of the feel of the series. As Marvel entered Phase 2, they realized that things needed a bit of changing up. It's why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is almost a different genre from the rest of the movies. The MCU formula had worked and it had worked wonderfully. But there needs to be growth for the franchise to survive and Iron Man 3, like its predecessor, had to create a new template for what could work. That template, oddly enough, was to not necessarily use a template.
Yes, Iron Man 3 is still a superhero movie. I suppose that Captain America: The Winter Solider is still a superhero movie. But this is the first film (perhaps it could be argued that Captain America: The First Avenger is a war film. I may have made that argument myself in my review for that film) that decided not to limit the genre to "simply a superhero movie". It kind of changed what a superhero movie could be. It is simply a framework for a larger storyline. It elevated the genre (Cool it down, Tim. No need to give these movies a sense of granduer) to something that could be paired with another genre, not unlike the mystery-comedy or action-comedy genre pairing that Shane Black is normally associated with. It's actually kind of genius to put Shane Black on this project. Shane Black works for me because he is the guy who subverts tropes and makes them wildly entertaining. He did Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, one of my favorite movies of all time with Robert Downey, Jr. and made it work. Sure, no one saw it, but he didn't have the marketing that went into something like Iron Man 3. I stand by the idea that Iron Man 3 is a superhero movie in the sense that it continues the franchise storylines. Tony Stark is still Iron Man, but much of the movie is Tony Stark the man dealing with his own inner demons and a mystery that seems to be surrounding him. The really impressive part is that a lot of this is adapted from a pretty cool story that already exists in the comics: Extremis. It's not like this is the first MCU movie to be adapted from an already existing storyline, but the MCU could have made this its own thing. Other stories in the MCU only have light references to the books. The Chitauri thing was drastically different from its comic book counterpart. But they decided to go ahead with Extremis and then they decided to completely change a lot of it. I love it so much.
It has to be weird for Favreau. Favreau created this whole thing with Iron Man, but he also pulls double duty by playing Happy Hogan. Happy is an important part in this story. Sure, he spends a lot of it LIGHT SPOILERS in a hospital bed, but he's definitely playing ball in this universe. He's being directed and being directed well. I rewatched Spider-Man: Homecoming and he's all over that movie. But Black gets what makes these characters work. The dynamics are still the same. They are still great. I can't help but feel like I'm kind of watching an '80s action movie rather than Iron Man 3 at times with his casting of Guy Pierce as Aldrich Killian. I'm not saying that Pierce is a relic of the '80s, but the looks and motivation of the guy definitely feels like something that I would have seen in Black's hay-day. It's just so marvelously menacing (pun intended). HEAVY SPOILERS, I know that the Ben Kingsley fakeout made everyone mad. I wholeheartedly disagree. I know. People wanted The Mandarin. But the Mandarin is Apu from The Simpsons. It is really time to retire this character and I think Iron Man 3 did its best attempt to take care of that. There is a weird line that I don't think really works as a perfect solve. When Guy Pierce screams, "I am the Mandarin", it's a bit of a mistake. I think this might be Feige playing producer here. The big complicated history of it all is that the Mandarin is meant to be Iron Man's archnemesis. For really hardcore Iron Man fans, they have been waiting for the Mandarin to show up because that's when the kid gloves would come off. But there's no way to do the Mandarin right. He's racist as crap nowadays. He barely shows up in the comics anymore and he is light years away from the character that was introduced in the '60s. While I don't know if every step was handled correctly, I can't say I wouldn't have made the same call. Also, who cares about the Mandarin now? The MCU really kind of downplays the archnemesis outside of Loki. Do I wish there was a Red Skull still around? Yeah. But I also acknowledge that the series is all about growth while getting some fundamentals still the same.
I also like the kid. Sorry, everyone. I know adding kids to an action franchise usually spells death outside of Jurassic Park, but he really is very funny and a perfect foil for Tony. The smartest thing this movie does outside of keeping Tony out of the suit is giving him trauma over the events in The Avengers. He is just a regular guy. The thing about him is that he runs towards danger headfirst and moves faster than what the universe can throw at him. There has to be a degree of catch-up. He just passed his line that he didn't know was his line. Making Tony Stark human is what separates him from being Batman. Okay, that and a sense of humor. But he's a guy who is Bruce Wayne all the time. Bruce Wayne is Batman's mask. Tony Stark just is Tony Stark, but that doesn't mean that there isn't depth here. I like Rhodey as part of the story, but Rhodey is on the same journey as Tony. This kid, however, is a perfect sounding board. The kid forces him to talk about his trauma in a way that anyone in Tony's world wouldn't allow. We've seen how Tony handles emotional conflict with those around him. The kid, however, has little history with Tony. Having him be wildly blunt in the face of a guy who just wants to be left alone is a very smart choice. Black goes even further in the right direction by having the kid share a passion with Tony: engineering. That kid is not just some random kid. That kid could grow up to be the next Tony Stark and that's kind of wonderful. Tony, this brash and cocky jerk, is a mentor for a kid not just because Iron Man suit is cool, but rather he is a mentor because he builds things with his hands and values his own education. That's kind of the weird thing about superheroes. The masses tend to enjoy the superhero for how cool they are. But there are those who really like these characters for the messages they bring. Tony is a flawed individual who keeps making mistakes. But he also builds and tries to fix those mistakes. He's far from perfect, but he's always trying to be and that kid only sees the guy who is trying to make the world a better place.
If I had to be critical with this movie outside of the Manderin slight misstep, I have to say that Pepper doesn't really have her time in the sun with this one. Probably the same could be said of Rhodey. Once again, Rhodey is in a suit that is in someone else's control and I've seen that beat before. I can't imagine what it would be like to have Hawkeye possessed again, but they did that with Rhodey once again. It is fun that the War Machine armor got turned into Norman Osborne's Iron Patriot armor. It isn't a big choice and I'm glad to see it revert back to War Machine, but it is a fun little nod. I also approve that this movie doesn't seem beholden to the other movies in the franchise, shy of Tony's Avengers-inspired PTSD. Regardless, please give this other one a try. I laughed a lot in this movie, especially with Ben Kingsley's big twist. It's a fun time. Also, Shane Black + Christmas 4Eva.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.