Top 10 films of 2013: Iron Man 3

Odd List Seb Patrick
23 Dec 2013 - 22:25

Next up on our countdown of our favourites of 2013, here's Iron Man 3, a surprisingly daring superhero movie

Over the past few weeks, Den of Geek writers have been voting for their favourite films of the year. The votes were weighted, calculated, and compiled into a list of our favourites of 2013's films. Here, at number 5, is Iron Man 3...

5. Iron Man 3

This article contains spoilers.

It would have been, let's face it, astonishingly easy for the Marvel films to rest on their laurels in the wake of The Avengers. Formula for a global smash-hit billion-dollar-grossing superhero franchise established, knock out a bunch of sequels that basically each follow the same basic pattern, job done.

But Marvel Studios didn't get where they are today by doing the easy or the sensible thing. And so the second wave of Marvel films have each taken conscious, deliberate shifts into genres beyond merely being classic-style "superhero" movies. We've already had the Star Wars-prequels-meet-Lord of the Rings techno-fantasy of Thor: The Dark World, with Guardians of the Galaxy's mental space opera and Captain America: The Winter Soldier's '70s-esque spy thriller still to come.

Kicking it all off, however, was the one that represented the biggest gamble: Iron Man 3. A Shane Black action-heist-spy-comedy that opens with the strains of Eiffel 65's perma-irritating Europop hit "Blue (Da Ba Dee)", lingers heavily on its central hero having post-traumatic stress disorder, and keeps him out of costume for the majority of its running time. Even by normal standards of risk-taking, here was the rulebook being torn up, thrown out of the window, and then blasted into oblivion by helicopters carrying rocket launchers for good measure.

It was always going to be divisive, of course – we said as much right from the outset. But for every internet fan who complained about the legacy of "Iron Man's greatest foe" being damaged by the Mandarin twist (which is nonsense, anyway – in almost fifty years of comics, the Mandarin has never been any good, and was most often simply an uncomfortably stereotypical "Yellow peril" villain), there were yet several more enraptured cinemagoers who thrilled to 2013's most delightfully unexpected moment. And besides, how was it in any way possible to complain about the Trevor Slattery revelation when it was carried by such a show-stoppingly hilarious performance as Sir Ben Kingsley's? And referenced Croydon in a major Hollywood blockbuster, to boot?

The same goes for the brief introduction of a kid sidekick – potentially an annoying, even franchise-ruining decision, but actually undercut with a hefty dose of witty cynicism ("Where's my sandwich?") This sort of thing was the key to why Iron Man 3 was able to pull off its frequent twists and surprises – while deliberately wrong-footing the viewer, the script itself (and we have to give credit not just to Black, but to the UK's own Drew Pearce, creator of the criminally overlooked superhero sitcom No Heroics) was resolutely sure of itself.

As witty as the film was, mind, it would be wrong to over-emphasise the comedy and give the impression that it was an out-and-out superhero spoof. You can get away with lacing a superhero flick with laughs if you also deliver on the action front – and here, Iron Man 3 was nothing short of a blast. Shellhead devotees will undoubtedly have got the biggest kick out of the climactic, remote-armour-laden sequence (not to mention a glimpse of what appeared to be Hulkbuster armour, especially intriguing given the fast friendship that's developed between Stark and Banner in the MCU), but the "barrel of monkeys" plane rescue was a particularly astonishing scene, and one that could only be done in a superhero movie. It's just a bit depressing that it was a better Superman scene than anything in Man of Steel, frankly.

Despite all of this, however, it's fair to say that Iron Man 3 didn't become the fifth biggest-grossing film of all time purely as a result of its ability to confound expectations or deliver solid comic book action. At the end of the day, there's one very large hook upon which the success of both this individual series, and Avengers in general, hangs: and that's Robert Downey Jr. He simply owns the character of Tony Stark – and with it, the audience's hearts – in a way that no actor in a superhero franchise has since Christopher Reeve in Superman (and then, arguably, possibly even more so – after all, Reeve wasn't method acting the part of Clark Kent for two decades before getting it the way RDJ seemingly did).

And with Iron Man 3, in particular, he sells an element of Tony that some fans had trouble grasping when complaining about the amount of time he spends out of the armour: namely, the fact that armour or no, and (as the dialogue deliberately spells out at the end) even without an arc reactor in his chest, he is Iron Man. And we love him wholeheartedly for it. Post-Avengers, we might have been just about ready for a break from the character. Post-Iron Man 3, it’s hard to imagine ever doing without him.

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