Why “Iron Man 3" Is The Most Underrated Movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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It's kind of a funny thing when you think about Robert Downey Jr's story. The drugs, the sex, the crazy partying, the meltdowns - it all led to an insanely triumphant comeback and him becoming, of all things,  an action star by playing Iron Man in three highly successful movies. He is, more or less, the star of the MCU, or, at least, alongside Chris Evans' Captain America, its face.

Downey made a career of memorable roles before his personal life went out of control due to a severe bout with cocaine and heroine addiction, but "Iron Man" staged the most incredible comeback in, qute possibly, Hollywood history. He went from a black-listed actor that nobody wanted near their productions to the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. 

The comeback, contrary to what some might think, didn't start with "Iron Man" but instead with 2006's indie "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" which was written and directed by a guy that was also deemed "washed-up," a "has-been" by the industry: Shane Black. A noir, murdery-mystery comedy, the film also kickstarted an acting style Downey Jr. would mimic in the "Iron Man" and "Sherlock Holmes" films. 

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Black started his career as a whiz-kid screenwriter. At the age of 27 he wrote "Lethal Weapon" and became the hottest screenwriter in town, he followed that up with cult classics such as "The Last Boy Scout," "The Last Action Hero" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight." However, none of the aforementioned films even came near the box-office success of "Lethal Weapon." After "The Long Kiss Good Night" in 1996 Black disappeared from the spotlight only to return with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."

The partnership, and consequential friendship, between Black and Downey Jr. would lead the latter to vouch and fight for the former to helm "Iron Man 3." Black would eventually take over Jon Favreau's duties as director. 

If "Iron Man 2" was a total and utter disappointment, the third installment felt fresh, unique and unlike anything we had previously seen from the MCU. It, of course, was a drastically different film from the 2008 original, a benchmark for the MCU. "Iron Man 3" felt fresh, innovative and just downright satirical about the superhero genre. 

The screenplay approach to the film was somewhat unusual and still is an anomaly in the genre. Black tried to sidestep cliches by infusing his own auteur voice to the mix. The recognizable writing style and themes that he sculpted since 1987's "Lethal Wepon" were there in spades: Male bonding, the trade of witty dialogue, labyrinthine crime plots and, most importantly, the Christmas setting, all rendered the film a uniqueness that would never be greenlit in today's safer, by-the-books MCU. In other words, the movie was filled with what we've come to know as "Shane Blackisms."

Back in 2013 I had this to say about the film: 

"Shane Black, has taken over Jon Favreau's duties as director of the newest Iron Man. If Iron Man 2 was a total and utter disappointment, this newest installment seems fresh and newly invigorated. It helps that Iron Man 3's screenplay is written in a way that goes against the narratives we are used to now with the MCU movies, much kudos must be given to Shane Black and Drew Pearce who collaborated on the screenplay. In Iron Man 3 the baddies are played by capably brilliant actors -Ben Kingsley and Guy Pierce- that bring a real nice touch to a film that could have easily steered the wrong way. This is a film that doesn't take itself so seriously and that's possibly the best approach to have in making these kinds of movies. As an added bonus, this has he potential to be a Christmas classic." 

five years after its release, it seems like we will likely never again have the risk-taking of "Iron Man 3," espeially with Marvel and Disney upping the restraints on filmmakers as the films become more and more popular.