It was around this time last year that moviegoers were rewarded for their perseverance through the inconsistent period of five genesis movies with the breathtaking Avengers Assemble. With eye-popping action, acute self-awareness and exemplary Hollywood conventions, Joss Whedon’s incredibly successful blockbuster may not have redefined the popular superhero genre, but it did set a remarkably high standard for any film or filmmaker who dared to follow.
Marvel decided to follow the jaw-dropping box-office and cinematic success of Avengers Assemble with a third instalment of its most popular hero; but with Iron Man stalwart Jon Favreau stepping down as director the torch was passed to Marvel newcomer Shane Black, the prominent eighties action writer and director of the 2005 satire Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Unexpectedly, Black makes an immediate impact by abandoning several previously established franchise elements, opting instead for a Nolan-esque superhero thriller that plays less like a vibrant third Iron Man and more like a studious sequel to Whedon’s Avengers. Long gone are Stark’s inventive gadgets, sleek and sexy locations and booming AC/DC-lead soundtrack; replaced instead by a thoughtful narrative that reflects a central redefining of the iconic hero and his life-altering adventures in New York. While the central motifs of acceptance, vulnerability and identity are certainly interesting, and aptly portrayed by Robert Downey Jr (who remains the casting decision of this generation), they are never truly explored and are long forgotten by the end credits.
Any superhero film in which the main hero spends less than fifteen minutes of screentime inside his suit is likely to struggle to maintain interest, particularly in the post-Avengers climate. Not only is Iron Man 3 sluggish, tedious and overlong, but it’s painfully inconsistent. Black’s initially intriguing approach falls flat as the film reverts to type in an underwhelming all-action finale that feels entirely out of place. Where Avengers left audiences aghast and applauding, Iron Man 3 is sure to leave them disappointed and wondering if they’re in for a few more years of quick fire money-spinners to build up for the official Avengers sequel reported to be released in 2015.