Black Sabbath are famous for the song "Iron Man" which was used heavily in the campaign for the first film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and his alter ego. For this film, the reunited Heavy Metal pioneers should have re-worked that classic with the stomping drum intro and distorted vocal instead proclaiming, "I am Tony Stark."
This is simply a film about a man and his toys. It is not the character pushed to his limits like the trailer might suggest. It is a shallow take on a potentially complex character. This is a movie that fails to grow with its audience, but instead wants to have shelves full of action figures at Wal-Mart. One can't blame the producers; this is after all a Disney film.
When I first saw the trailer, I was excited to see the Mandarin. I'm not a huge fan of the Mandarin in his original incarnation, but the trailer leads you to believe this is a re-imagining right out of Christopher Nolan's play book. I was expecting a menacing, brooding, intellectual that could rival Starks wits and test his human limitations. The only limitations tested in this arena, were my patience. The big character reveal will leave you wishing it all was a bad joke; but the reveal itself is the bad joke.
Guy Pearce is great. I like him in everything I see him in. His character here does not have a lot of substance, but I believe he is the character he is playing. I have no issues with any of the casting decisions, or how well the characters are played. Ben Kinglsey even did fine as the Mandarin. It is great to see Jon Favreau still in front of the camera as Happy Hogan even though he is no longer behind the camera directing (although he is still Executive Producer). Gwenyth Paltrow was the only character I felt was really tested emotionally; this is my favorite performance of hers as Pepper Potts.
Director Shane Black did his best Michael Bay impression with tons of panoramic action shots, and big explosions. The pacing of the movie was a little long, but as a whole I don't have any complaints with the director. This is only his second effort at the helm, so it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. A piece of trivia for you, he wrote Lethal Weapon, and there is a scene in the third act that reminded me so much of Lethal Weapon 2 with Stark as the Riggs equivalent and Rhodes as Murtaugh. I wonder how intentional this was.
As I stated before, the title character has the potential to be so complex. His body is on guard all the time due to the shrapnel in his arteries, he experienced severe life altering trauma in the Avengers (seeing aliens, fighting aliens, almost dying), he has no real family, he was once abducted by terrorists, and his mentor and father figure tried killing him. It is no wonder he was an alcoholic in the comics. With the exception of some forced moments of panic attacks, we don't get that exploration of the dark side of trauma. The hero remains a G rated character with the exception of implied womanizing and a sharp wit. We even see the character interact with a young boy which screamed Disney. The whole time I watched Downey and the kid interact, all I kid think about was that scene in Due Date where Downey's character ended up punching that bratty kid.
I don't love this movie. I watched it with my six-year-old who loves Iron Man. The night before we both revisited Iron Man 2 and The Avengers; both which he was able to sit through without a peep. In this one he got restless and bored. He didn't love it either.