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Iron Man 3 (2013)
Director: Shane Black

review by J.C. Hartley

Anyone who has bothered to read my reviews will know I'm no fan of extras (or indeed Extras, but that's another story). However, in the case of Iron Man 3, I coughed up for the blu-ray because I wanted to see the Peggy Carter: Agent Of SHIELD Marvel one-shot or Agent Carter as it's more accurately known. Yes, I know it must be available somewhere in the world-wide web but the blu-ray wasn't exactly extortionately priced. In this little film Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) has been reduced to secretarial work in the Strategic Scientific Reserve.

Reduced to filing, and patronised by her sexist boss, who despatches his agents on forlorn missions to capture Zodiac saboteurs and fifth columnists, Agent Carter seems marooned a million miles from the centre of action she enjoyed as Steve Rogers' best gal. When the guys go out for a little drink, Agent Carter takes a phone-call tip-off that sees her taking on Zodiac, and beating-up the sort of turtle-neck goons that Steve Ditko's Spider-Man used to throw around when Peter Parker was still in high school. Having saved the day, the following morning at work sees her hauled over the coals by her boss, until Howard Stark calls on the phone to ask her to come and run SHIELD with him. Well! Peggy Carter, Director of SHIELD! I truly hope Captain America: The Winter Soldier addresses this.

As regards the rest of the Iron Man 3 extras, there is the usual audio commentary, a making-of featurette, a break down of the making-of the major set-piece, being the Air Force One mid-air rescue, deleted and extended scenes, and the usual humour-free gag reel. There is also a trailer for Thor: The Dark World, which is a film I'm really excited about.

Iron Man 3 starts with a bit of a flashback to New Year's Eve, 1999, where the old arrogant Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), indistinguishable from the new caring-sharing Tony Stark to be honest, while romancing experimental scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) puts off and humiliates disabled scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who is trying to recruit them to AIM (Advanced Ideas Mechanics). Now the old AIM wore bee-keeper helmets, and created the Cosmic Cube, the Super-Adaptoid, and MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing), and this latter character took over the directorship at one point. Those were the days. Maya has created a process for regenerating organic tissue called EXTREMIS, but - guess what - it's unstable.

Flash-forward and Killian turns up at Stark Industries, rich, handsome and no longer disabled. He flirts with 'Pepper' Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark's girlfriend and CEO of Stark Industries, and demonstrates AIM's new biotech. Meanwhile, a bin Laden-type terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is taunting the USA with video-blogs and mysterious bomb attacks on American soil. When Stark's friend, and head of security, 'Happy' Hogan (Jon Favreau), is seriously injured in one such attack, Stark issues a challenge to the Mandarin, on-air. Unfortunately, Stark is suffering from PTSD after his trip into space at the end of Avengers Assemble, either that or the lingering effects of a dodgy shawarma, it's hard to say because so much of Downey Jr's playing of Stark is on one neurotic note. Cue helicopter attack on Stark's cliff-top penthouse and the game's afoot (whoops, wrong franchise).

The press for this film posits Iron Man 3 and the Tony Stark character as some sort of James Bond meets Mission: Impossible. A guy in a CGI metal suit punching stuff has its narrative shortcomings and needs a bit more substance, but I'm not convinced that they've solved that problem here. This is an Iron Man movie for people who aren't bothered about Iron Man. So we get Don Cheadle's Iron Patriot, we get a flying cavalry of remotely operated Iron Man suits, but what we don't get is the Iron Man who went up against the alien Ramrod in Iron Man #36 (1971), and suffered a partial heart-attack.

Of course, the superhero films they are making now are the superhero films I dreamt of seeing when I was 13 years old, but audiences are more sophisticated, and the satisfaction you got from a page of garishly coloured frames in a comic will not now sustain an audience for a couple of hours plus in the cinema. I don't know what the answer is; I'm just hard to satisfy is all. One thing I do know is that the improvised banter between Downey Jr. and Paltrow is even more annoying here than it was in Iron Man 2.

There is one massive switcheroo, that I didn't see coming, which was very clever indeed; I'm sorry that a major character had to be abandoned for the sake of the international box-office but I think it was too good a plot twist to shed too many tears over. At the end of the film Tony has his heart repaired but declares "I'm still Iron Man," and the closing credit reads, James Bond-style, 'Tony Stark will return'; in Avengers: The Age Of Ultron, one guesses. Iron Man can exist within the Avengers suited-up, and CGI-d, given the combat beats in that kind of film, but I don't quite see where Iron Man could go for a fourth outing on his own. Still, Marvel's house has many mansions.

Iron Man 3



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