The Return of the King – ★★★★
Forget the stodgy bloated and boring Iron Man 2 from three years ago and settle in for an action packed, funny and moving film that makes us remember why we fell in love with Iron Man all those years ago.
Robert Downey Jr. is back in flying form, wise-cracking his way to saving the day as Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man. The film opens with Stark taking us back in time to 1999 where he first came upon Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and how this fateful meeting would come back to haunt him. Flash forward to the present day and Stark is still tinkering around in his underground lab trying to come to terms with what happened last summer in New York (Avengers Assemble). Unable to sleep he has made some nifty new alterations to the suit which plays a key role throughout the film.
Of course there is some ne’er-do-well running amuck in America terrorising people with a bombing campaign. He goes by the name of The Mandarin, played excellently by Sir Ben Kingsley. People who saw him in Sexy Beast are all too familiar with his ability to play a psychopath. So Killian and The Mandarin are in cahoots and with Pearce supplying the weapons it seems as if their reign is unstoppable.Stark is having a small crisis constantly suffering from panic attacks and it isn’t until he crash lands and with the help of a little boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) that he learns to cope with his doubts. This isn’t nearly as twee or nausea inducing as it sounds and is possibly the funniest segment of the film. That’s what strikes you most about the latest instalment, the humour is back. As one character berates Tony “is that it? a cheap trick and a cheesy line?” to which he replies ” that could be the title of my autobiography”. Downey Jr. plays the role with just enough cocky arrogance coupled with a genuine fear of loss that we end up caring about what happens to him and his loved ones. A rare feat for a superhero blockbuster.
The director of I and II Jon Favreau has stepped aside [although stays on as an executive producer and has a small acting role], and passed the baton to Shane Black. Black is more known for his screenplays, Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout with Iron Man 3 being only his second feature film. He directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang back in 2005 where he would have worked with Downey Jr., so they obviously feel comfortable with each other which comes across on screen.
The supporting cast all work well, Paltrow isn’t even slightly annoying and Cheadle does well reprising his role as Col. Rhodes. The stand out is most likely the child actor Simpkins who draws out Stark and brings to mind Corey Feldman (Stand by Me, The Goonies, The Lost Boys). The film clocks in slightly longer than its previous instalment but didn’t drag at all and as I mentioned before you actually care what happens to the characters making the final climatic battle scene all the more engaging.
The film also has some valid points to make on the notion of terrorism and its face in society and while we may start out with the best of intentions our plans often go slightly astray. As always there is no need to see it in 3D although try and see it on a big a screen as possible.
For me the first Iron Man was a bench mark alongside the first two X-Men films that all recent super hero movies should be measured against, Nigel would probably include the first two Spider-Man movies in that list as well. With so many disappointing additions of late; Captain America, Avengers Assemble and Thor it’s good to see a solid return to past glories. We will have Thor 2 in October and The Avengers 2 in 2015 and more besides so lets enjoy this while we can.
USA / Directed By: Shane Black / Written By: Drew Pearce, Shane Black / Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall / 130min / Action / Release: 24 April 2013 (Ireland, UK), 3 May 2013 (USA, Canada)