Generally will be spoiler-free; though don't cry if I mention something that was already shown in the trailers. ;)
It is one of the dates in 2013 that we have all been waiting for, the opening to Marvel's Phase Two. And Tony Stark was given the first act, with the film I was quite honestly, a little worried for. The second film disappointed a lot of fans, so could this pull the series back on track? Well, from the crowds tonight at the theatre, it looks like people are more than willing to find out for themselves, which certainly goes towards the strength the Marvel movies brand has built up over the past few years. For me, I had an idea of what to expect, but no clue as to how they would deliver it. And walking out from it at the end left me fling very...... happy. So, time to explain why and delve into the film.
We open with a flashback to events in 1999, where an even more exuberant Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is laying down his scientific flirts on a young scientist named Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). She was working on a project that can develop and heal body tissue. Tony also crosses the leader of the project Aidrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who wishes for his help, but Tony to put it simply, leaves him out to dry on the offer.
Back to the present day, Stark is clearly struggling to cope with the events in New York from "The Avengers" as he tries to comprehend the meaning of everything that happened. He obsessively builds new prototypes of his Suits, hardly sleeps, and suffers panic attacks. The problems cause serious strain on his relationship with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) as she feels as if she is losing touch of Stark.
Meanwhile, a series of terrorist attacks and threats are being lead by a figure named Mandarin, who with ach attack is vowing to close in on an ultimate goad by Christmas Day. Stark openly taunts him on TV by giving him his address, leading to catastrophic results for not just him and his industry, but those who he holds closest to him. Tony falls to his lowest point, still haunted by his past and present problems, and struggles to discover the links between Mandarin and a series of explosions that seem beyond resolution. He must come to terms with who he is and what he stands for, when his Suit lays in ruins. He must determine which element makes him who he is at heart.....
To spare those who may not get a chance to see this for a week (looking to you America) I won't delve any further into the synopsis than that. Much of it has been hinted at within the trailers but discovering it for yourself is far better. Speaking broadly, this is a movie that focuses intently on Tony Stark as a character, and less about what the Suit turns him into. His moral fibre and resilience is strained to breaking point as we watch his chaotic fall from grace into a world where is vulnerable, and must rely on his core skills. It really is quite a fascinating look at him, and one I wasn't expecting to see from this film, his enemies inside are just as ferocious as those he must encounter such as Mandarin.
But don't worry, not everything here is dark and drama-intensive, because about 70% of the movie is sheer, joyous entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. once again steals the show with his performance, managing to flip between comedy and delivering the important lines with immense ease. The drama also adds a lot more depth to his personality and allows us to see more of "The Iron Man" for who he truly is. All of this helps to constantly keep you invested in the film, either for the next witty sequence of banter or his wonderful play with words to keep the story moving along. Gwyneth Paltrow has a small role in here that although being important to the plot, didn't feel as strong as I thought it could be. She's great in here but.... maybe could have had more interactions. The same can be said for Rebecca Hall too who has even less screen time. But Don Cheadle as the Iron Patriot is as you would expect from him, fantastic in the segments he has. I love how that guy can just own the camera when he is in front of it, being at times just as charismatic as Downey Jr. and just as impressive.
Without spoiling his role, I'll say as well that Guy Pearce was a great choice in here. His range is very impressive, and the film develops and alters him without making it blindingly obvious to the audience. (at least not for me) He could have done with feeling more threatening in the third act in terms of the lines he is given to deliver, but honestly, I have little to fault him on.
As I hinted at before, the comedy and writing in here is a very strong point that the movie leans upon. Sure, it doesn't work all the time, but most of the time it gets a chuckle. And quite a lot it got a big laugh from me as well as much of the audience there. It spreads across all levels of humour from the witty banter to the small visual points; the writing is a well of laughter and intelligence. Everyone from kids to elders will have a joke they'll get straight away, even if some others might pass over them. But what impresses the most about it is how it works in every situation. Even in points of danger they drop in something to make you smile, it is comedy that works right across the spectrum which I could only applaud for.
In terms of action, if you were expecting 140 minutes of stuff blowing up, you will probably be disappointed. The number of fast paced sequences is relatively low, but gives you everything you were hoping for. Each piece amplifies in scale and signifies the threat extremely well, especially in the parts in the second half. They aren't exactly epic in size, but will stay on your mind afterwards as you re-live them. The effects are as you would expect - top notch once again from the team. The details have a believable feel to them and although some of the locations feeling rather unknown and plain, the action that occurs in them is anything but plain.
It is hard to summarise all of the things that are going on in this film, it has surprisingly more depth than you would expect, but at the same time gives you all you want from a big summer superhero blockbuster. You have the character piece of Stark that intertwines with his relationship with Pepper Pott, as well as his path of discovery that drags him through the toughest times we have seen him in. You have the intoxicating blend of comedy, action, pacing, and story that keeps you firmly in the rollercoaster and enjoying every moment of it. If I was to aim complains here, I would say that the movie does slow down for quite a long time in the second third. It was all enjoyable but felt like the film was being too careful to ensure the audience picked up on everything that was being said. I would also say that there a few moments throughout where the focus kind of.... gets lost within the chaos that is being represented on screen. Maybe it had too much going on to juggle with, which allowed for a fumble or two to seep in un-noticed. Maybe other people would see it differently or have a better understanding of things as they are developing on an active basis, but I was slightly confused at points.
But you know what? .... I don't care about that; I don't mind the small little problems that reared their heads. Even jokes that kind of fall limp didn't matter, because it was almost immediately followed by one that worked. Hell, even the kid actor in here isn't annoying and actually has some funny interactions and lines to deliver. Iron Man 3 has almost everything we loved about the first one, and then adds even more for you to enjoy on top. As I said, this film was about Tony Stark, and not what the Suit turns him into. As an insight into the turmoil’s of a superhero during his greatest challenges, you will be satisfied with all that is laid out before you. It is funny, the performances are great right across the board, the action is intense and brilliantly captured, and the ending leaves you with a sense of completion.... you feel like you really have been alongside Tony Stark all the time and provides a gratifying end sequence to leave you with. Iron Man, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3 almost feels like its own trilogy and each film compliments one another so well.
At the end of it, I am going to rate this on an entertainment level, and in those terms, this is a fantastic start to the summer movie season. People of all ages and tastes will enjoy the hell out of it, though like almost always, the 3D before the film is better then what is actually in the film. But aside from that, I'm giving this a (9.5/10). I enjoyed almost all of the 140 minutes that were shown here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that you will too. Be excited people, Phase Two is here and it has shown that it means business.
Thanks for reading! ^__^