With Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to a close with last year's incredibly hyped Avengers, the money-making saga is now pressing forward with the next string of storylines set to conclude in another epic ensemble flick in just over two years time. Phase Two has begun, and to kickstart it we have Iron Man 3 - the much desired redemption from Tony Stark's last on screen outing.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) has been left in a worrying state of paranoia and anxiety after his destructive battles as an Avenger, which not only causes compulsive behaviour but friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). His prospects takes an even bigger dip when, seemingly out of the blue, an Anti-American terrorist dubbed The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) unleashes his hellish plans on unsuspecting victims, leading Tony to don the suit once again and stop this new threat - something far easier said than done...
Iron Man 2 was a huge letdown for most viewers due to an absurdly half baked villain and an overall clumsy story - Jon Favreau has stepped down from the helm to let Shane Black take over and the stylistic impact this has on the plot is incredibly noticeable. The stakes are higher and a sombre tone reigns over the narrative, thankfully governed by a healthy dose of comedy. It's good to see a bleak vibe with some meaningful depth drive what could've been just a dumb superhero flick, but you rarely feel true substance beneath the surface; Iron Man was a smartly written and beautifully paced superhero story, and this third iteration tries to match that with iffy results, shunting aside emotional moments without any true focus and ultimately disrupting its own pacing.
Iron Man transformed the character of Tony Stark from an arrogant douchebag to an understanding philanthropist through a cohesive narrative which was completely negated when the character reverted back to an asshole in Iron Man 2 and, in some cases, The Avengers. Iron Man 3 corrects this in some aspects but a simple fact remains: Tony Stark, while excellently portrayed by the still brilliant Downey, Jr, is too funny. He seems to have a cheesy one liner for every situation (even the most dire) and this drains the film of its comedic appeal, making it repetitive and eventually irritating - the same can be said in regards to the overdone slapstick gags. The other performances across the board are generally exceptional, especially Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian and Kingsley as The Mandarin.
A huge twist around one hour into the film really shifts the focus of the plot around and you'll be surprised how different the final storyline is compared to how the trailers advertised it. The plot twist is a marmite situation that people will love or hate - I wasn't a fan. Iron Man 3 never feels like it's doing the best it can with its premise and ultimately is a letdown after the astounding Avengers from last year. Excellent set pieces, beautiful IMAX imagery and fantastic performances are dragged down by an iffy plot and too many tonal shifts. A huge disappointment - probably more so than Iron Man 2.