Shane Black is the most underrated writer/director working in the film industry today. A brief synopsis of his resumé follows:
- Lethal Weapon – Screenplay
- Monster Squad – Screenplay
- Lethal Weapon 2 – Story and Characters
- The Last Boy Scout – Screenplay
- The Last Action Hero – Screenplay
- The Long Kiss Goodnight – Screenplay
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Writer and Director
Not a bad film in the bunch. And now he is the co-writer and director of Iron Man 3, by far the best of the three Iron Man films. (and in some ways makes the second film worse) Though not as good as The Avengers, this is a terrific follow-up to the events of that film. Iron Man 3 takes place one year after the alien invasion in New York and Tony Stark is having difficulty coping with everything he went through during the course of that story.
Once again Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role of Tony Stark, a role he seems to be born to play. Gwyneth Paltrow joins him again as Pepper Potts, who is once again the CEO of Stark Industries and is still in a romantic relationship with Tony Stark. Don Cheadle, who took over the role of James “Rhodey” Rhodes in Iron Man 2 from Terrence Howard, returns as War Machine, though he has been re-branded by the President of the United States (William Sadler) as Iron Patriot. Jon Favreau, who helmed Iron Man 1 and 2, rejoins the cast as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark’s “bodyguard” and friend, and is now the head of security at Stark Industries.
Iron Man 3 introduces a bevy of new characters, not the least of which is “The Mandarin” portrayed in superlative fashion by the amazing Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi). Guy Pearce (Memento) plays Aldrich Killian, a character who comic book fans will recognize as the creator of the Extremis virus. Rounding out the new characters is Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who is a genetic engineer and a former lover of Tony Stark’s from before he became Iron Man.
The film begins with an amazingly well-choreographed and funny scene where Tony is testing out his new Mark XLII armor, a new suit whose components all have their own individual sources of propulsion which are remote controlled via subdermal microchips that Tony implanted into himself. This new suit is reminiscent of the Extremis armor in the comics, though, to be clear, the Mark XLII in the film is not his Extremis armor. The test doesn’t go exactly according to plan and it is here revealed that Tony hasn’t been sleeping well due to the trauma he incurred during the Chitauri invasion of New York in The Avengers.
The story of the film centers mostly around Tony and his fight against The Mandarin but at the same time exploring how he copes with his post-traumatic stress disorder (as one character describes it) and the problems it raises in his life, mostly with his relationship with Pepper. However, don’t think the film is just about Tony and his “drama”. Oh no, there is plenty of action to go around and this is where Shane Black and his action expertise comes into full focus.
Shane has a strong background in action as you can see from the repertoire of films I mentioned previously. He even portrayed Hawkins in the film Predator, one of the greatest action films of all time. His first film, Lethal Weapon, is cited by many as one of the best “buddy cop” films of all time. The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight are two of the most underrated action movies ever and have some of the best dialogue in action movie history. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black’s directorial debut, is one of his most critical successes, though it was over-looked by many movie-goers and made a paltry $4M at the U.S. box office though it found many new fans once the film hit home video. It also just so happened to star Robert Downey Jr., coincidentally or not-so-coincidentally enough. So, after Jon Favreau decided to move on to other films, including his upcoming Magic Kingdom with Disney, Shane Black just seems like a perfect fit and the results speak for themselves.
The action scenes in Iron Man 3 range from the comedic (Mark XLII armor opening sequence) to the balletic (the mid-air rescue) to the brutal (a rough-and-tumble brawl with two super-powered enemies while the Mark XLII armor is temporarily out of commission). Director Shane Black shows his penchant for action as well as his ability to write great dialogue all while telling a personal story where Tony has to fight some of his own personal demons. It’s a fantastic film all around. The only blemish on my movie-going experience was seeing it in 3D. It’s not that the 3D was particularly bad, but it certainly didn’t add anything to the experience. If you have a choice, I would definitely recommend seeing it in 2D as the extra expense for a 3D ticket is absolutely not worth it.
I must also advise those of you who see the movie to stay through the credits. Not only is the closing credit sequence one of the best I’ve ever seen, but the post-credit scene has a hilarious cameo performance involving a character from another Marvel film.
It has been rumored that this could be Robert Downey Jr.’s last appearance as Tony Stark as his contract with Disney expires after Iron Man 3. If Disney isn’t able to bring him back, I would be very disappointed as RDJ has truly embraced the character and made him his own over the four films in which he appears as Tony Stark. Iron Man just wouldn’t be the same without him. In fact, when he was initially cast as Iron Man, I personally thought it was an inspired choice and really the only one that made sense. As it stands now, I’m not sure who else could play Tony with as much aplomb and energy as Robert Downey Jr. has. However, if Iron Man 3 is his swan song as Tony Stark, he sure picked a great movie to go out on. Iron Man 3 gets my highest possible recommendation.