Iron Man 3 presented an interesting challenge to Marvel, as it’s the completion of the Iron Man trilogy – with no stand-alone adventures for Downey Jr’s metal man likely to follow – but also the follow-up to The Avengers and a prequel to his appearance in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. As such the movie could have ended up a complete mess, unsure what it was meant to be doing. However it actually handles the challenge fairly well, sewing up themes from the earlier Iron Man movies, while having Tony Stark rocked by the events of the Battle Of New York, which have started causing him to have panic attacks.
The other Avengers are off elsewhere, with Tony in his palatial Cliffside mansion tinkering with new versions of the Iron Man suit, including a prototype for one which will simply fly over and attach at his command. Unfortunately for him – and his panic attacks – a new threat has emerged in the shape of the slightly Osama Bin Laden-esque Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who’s been launching terrorist attacks and taking over the airwaves to teach the US populace his meandering lessons.
After Tony decides to challenge the Mandarin, he learns he’s not invincible when his home is attacked. Barely escaping he ends up halfway across the country. Using the fact that many believe he’s dead, he starts to investigate what’s going on with the Mandarin. Tony discovers that things aren’t as they appear and the threat may be even greater than just faraway madman.
As with many modern mega-budget movies, Iron Man 3 is a bit all over the place, trying to keep an awful lot of balls in the air. However it only occasionally drops them, although (to stretch a metaphor) there are moments when it forgets about one of the balls for a while and you’ll wonder what’s happened to it. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow’s presence as Pepper Potts tends to be rather sporadic. Every time she’s around the film wants to assure us she’s a very important character, but then it will forget about her for another 20 minutes.
It’s also interesting at the end to see how Marvel deals with its damsel-in-distress problem. For decades the staple of action films has been to end up with the heroic man having to save his poor defenceless lady from the baddies, but in this day and age it’s starting to seem increasingly sexist. Iron Man 3 isn’t quite ready to ditch the idea of damsels-in-distress – after all, few things will get someone going like thinking the love of their life is about to be killed – but it is keen to show women aren’t completely helpless.
Most of all though, even when the narrative slides a bit and there are moments where it all becomes a bit silly (the weird, super-heated people who keep turning up are a tad daft), it’s a lot of fun. The big action set-pieces are huge and exciting, there’s plenty of the series’ trademark humour and Downey Jr. still seems to be having a lot of fun in the role. It’s also fairly impressive that it manages to give the three Iron Man movies a sense of completion, while ensuring it won’t feel odd when Tony returns in The Avengers 2 (and probably 3 as well).
The other aspect of following up The Avengers is one of scale. Marvel obviously didn’t want their first film after the superhero team-up to feel likes it was a step down in terms of action spectacle, so they’ve filled the movie with massive amounts of impressively realised special effects. It ensures this is a film that really deserves a big-screen TV and a decent Blu-ray set-up to get the most out of it.
As large chunks of the film take place at night, they’ve taken care to make the HD picture handle dark colours extremely well, while the whole thing has a wonderful clarity and broad colour palette. There’s no doubt it looks great and the audio is very good too. In fact it’s perhaps a bit too good, as some of the surround elements were so well mixed it kept making me jump as it really did sound like they were inside the room with me.
The features are okay but not particularly amazing. The cover promises an exclusive featurette looking at the next Marvel flick, November’s Thor: The Dark World, but it’s essentially just a trailer with the likes of Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth occasionally popping up to say how awesome it’s going to be. I really want to see one of these promos where one of the stars says something like, ‘Well, I didn’t really like my co-stars and I’m not sure the film’s gonna be any good either’, but as the actors are contracted to be nice, I don’t think it’s going to happen. There’s some okay Thor footage, but it doesn’t really live up to the Blu-ray cover’s promise.
The disc also includes a couple of featurettes, both of which are pretty interesting even if it’s difficult not to wish there were more of them. ‘Deconstructing the Scene’ looks at the making of the attack on Air Force One, which is an impressive mix of live-action elements and CG. Those involved are impressed by how much was done practically, but probably more striking is how the real footage was seamlessly merged with computer generated backgrounds and elements.
‘Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Unmasked’ is more of an overview and it is interesting, but at only 10-minutes long, it does feel like it’s over before it’s begun. Do you remember when the DVDs of big summer movies came with feature-length ‘making of’ documentaries? Ah, those were the days.
Added to the featurettes is a fun audio commentary and a few slightly unnecessary deleted scenes, but the best thing amongst the extras is one of Marvel’s ‘One Shot’ shorts, this time called ‘Agent Carter’. You might have thought they’d have waited to put this one on the Captain America 2 disc, as it concentrates on Steve Roger’s old flame, Peggy Carter, as played by Hayley Atwell. However, the smart money would suggest that what we learn in this short will become more relevant in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It follows Sharon Carter after the war is over. She’s still working for the military but she lives in an extremely sexist world, where her boss thinks she just ought to be making the coffee and shouldn’t be allowed to take part in investigations. Indeed he thinks she’s only there because she used to date the Cap. However when Carter decides to take on a case by herself, it opens up a new world of possibilities. It’s a great little short that stands alone but manages to pack in a lot, from a few laughs to some hints about what direction Captain America 2 will take.
Overall Verdict: Iron Man 3 may sometime try to do too many things at once, with the result that it jumps around a lot, but it’s still extremely entertaining and a fitting end to the superhero trilogy (even if this isn’t the last we’ll see of Downey Jr’s Tony Stark).
Reviewer: Tim Isaac