This will sound like a back-handed compliment, but it's something of a wonder that we haven't gotten sick of seeing Robert Downey Jr. suit up as Iron Man. Unlike Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, whose appearance in even the first, delightful Pirates of the Caribbean film seems lesser and lesser with each new lame installment, Downey, along with his Tony Stark character from the Iron Man and Avengers films, has managed to stay in our good graces.
In part, that's because the guy knows how to deliver a joke. And as superhero movies get more and more ubiquitous, there's something to be said for a franchise whose very stock in trade appears to be its inability to take itself too seriously. But can such heights of goofiness start to work against a movie? If we are to take the enormously entertaining and thoroughly disposable Iron Man 3 as evidence, then ... maybe.
As the funniest and most inconsequential of the Iron Man films to date, this third installment in Marvel's money-printing superhero series is notable also because it marks a return to the director's chair for Shane Black. Back in the 1990s, Black became a minor celebrity (and a critics' punching bag) as the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood, a guy whose specialty was over-the-top, wisecracking buddy action movies like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout. He seemed to disappear for a number of years before re-emerging in 2006 as a director with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a somewhat smaller-scaled over-the-top wisecracking buddy action movie starring Downey and Val Kilmer.
That film was more of an outright comedy, and so too, it seems, is Iron Man 3, which for all its CGI-laden mayhem cannot resist the chance for a good one-liner or an odd bit of unrelated comic banter. Perhaps ironically, it took an action veteran like Black to turn the Iron Man movies into something closer to pure comedy — as opposed to Jon Favreau, the former comedian who directed the first two films (and here reappears, briefly, as Tony Stark's security guy Happy).