Well, what can be said about this latest installment of the Iron Man saga?
I feel like it was a vast improvement over the last film and, at this point, I'm pretty convinced that it might be my favorite of the three films. It's not that I didn't enjoy Favreau's efforts, but this just brought things together in a way I wasn't sure was possible.
Where to even start? This is a post-Avengers world, and thusly, this is our first glimpse into what the Marvel Universe looks like after the invasion of the Chitauri, and it's our most human look at Tony Stark across the board. Shane Black said we couldn't see him dealing with the demon in the bottle, but we were certainly able to see him battling the devil in himself. At this stage in his life, he's prone to panic attacks at the mere mention of the words "New York."
Yes, we saw Tony change in The Avengers, but that change wasn't all for the better and Tony wasn't exactly ready for the change.
And, like most things in Tony's life, things from his past come back to haunt him.
I don't want to get too much into spoiler territory with this review. I will say that I'm still not sure that I like some of the choices for characters made. I can safely say, though, that I do like the portrayal of The Mandarin. Ben Kingsley is fantastic and turns in one of the finest performances of any superhero villain. Though I will admit the direction they take him might upset some fans. It made perfect sense, though.
What I will say, is that Shane Black placed his own thumbprint on the film in a way I wasn't sure was possible. It's a Christmas movie that instantly conjured images of Lethal Weapon, with the Christmas music, tree lots, people tossing fake badges on tables, Riggs and Murtaugh like shootouts in construction sites... This film truly is the descendant of Lethal Weapon. It also has much more of Shane Black's later sensibilities, many will notice similarities in style with his last Robert Downey, Jr. film, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. It's particularly striking in the way the film starts and ends.
As for the post-credits sequence, it's worth staying for once, and it's fun to see other characters from the Avengers universe, but it's not much to write home about. It's satisfying to a degree, but I feel like it should have left a stronger lead up to Thor: The Dark World.
This film had me in tears (the scene where Tony's house is blown up!) and in stitches (Tony is as funny as ever.) It had me smiling (Downton Abbey!) throughout and cheering for the good guys and hissing at the bad guys. Guy Pearce is particularly delightful, if not slightly cardboard. The events put into motion provide the backdrop for the most stunning and Iron Man filled finale in any of the movies.
And I can't overstate how much I liked his interplay with "The Kid." Best sidekick ever.
My only complaint (aside from the questionable change of one character, which may or may not be fixed by the end) is that it felt as thought Rebecca Hall was underused. I think she's a great actress and she was given a bit of short shrift here, underutilized in a way that was even worse than Sam Rockwell's under-utilization.
Will you enjoy Iron Man 3? Absolutely.
Did I? You bet.
Was it the best of the three? As I'm at the end of this review, I still think so, yes.
Am I still more excited for Thor: The Dark World coming later this year? Verily.
Iron Man 3 hits cinemas in the United States on Friday.