Dark film. Not just for the scenes of Tony Stark coming to grips with the aftermath of hanging out with the Avengers in New York, clutching at the shock of post-traumatic stress disorder. No. A lot of times when the magic of suiting up happens, it's void of daylight. Either through rubble or down by the docks. The key scenes happen when the sun is out of the way. We're dealing with darkness as it wraps its cloak with both hands.
Following on from the first two films, the climatic boss battle in Iron Man 3 also takes place when the celestial stars are out and the day has soothed into night. Fortunately, enough time passes leading up to the final mashup that it's not like you just turn your head and a bridge appears out of nowhere taking the day with it and now you're bashing each other under spotlights. Visually it makes for a cool background, the glowing of sparks and shredding metal as everything washes out into the shadows. It's not like we're fighting demons in a bottle here.
And we're not in Stockholm either. We're in a crawlspace. One that exists between a man turning into a shell of his bombastic self at the same time he fights to break free of it. As much as this is a fine example of how well Robert Downey, Jr is Tony Stark, it's also about how Tony Stark, void of all the gadgets and the money, is still Iron Man. The sequence around the steampunk arsenal build solidifies that conceit. The fall and comeback of the conflicted genius and all that comes to bear.
The dialogue is snappy, fluid. Personality drips through each interaction and it really is hard to think of anyone else taking over RDJ as Tony Stark. Again, the banter and back-and-forth on consequences with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), bickering over the War Machine versus Iron Patriot names with Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and even sleuthing with the kid from Tennessee appears to all be surface matter. You don't get to joke around like that without working for it.
Ben Kingsley's turn as The Mandarin is a deft touch. Blink and you'll keep thinking about how logical it is and how much of it feels like real world politics right in your comicbook action splash movie. It's handsomely placed in front of your yellow face, the charm offensive takes you prisoner and you're asking for second servings. Guy Pearce serves it up as Killian Aldrich and is so suave and debonair that his villainy is oozing to a point shy of obvious malice. The popcorn of it all is so buttery.
Ultimately, what this film really boils down to is that you cannot trust a disabled person. Or at least an amputee. Certainly not when they get together as a whole. It continues an underlying thread from Spider-Man's corner wherein The Lizard comes from the science of limb regeneration. Advanced science should therefore be kept out of the dismembered hands of both the physically and emotionally wanting.
At its shrapnel-laced heart, it comes back to redemption set against the spectacle of all that wizardry and science-fiction. A smart tale told in effortless movements.
Reviewed on Friday, 17 May 2013