What to make of “Iron Man 3,” the third film in its own series and the seventh film in Marvel’s larger “Avengers” franchise?
Remember that time there were “Iron Man” movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow as his plucky love interest? And they would feature a rotating group of Oscar-nominated actors as his sidekicks and villains? Good times. The franchise was the talk of the town in 2008, when the first film was a big hit and very enjoyable, but things took a turn for the worse last year when the second installment was (A) not so good and (B) not so profitable (it cost a lot more than the original but made slightly less domestically).
Anyway, everyone has forgotten about “Iron Man,” because Marvel just used the first film to rev up the “Avengers” engine. But! A third film in the series is still due out in May 2013, so clearly somebody, somewhere at Disney remembered Downey’s contract includes a third solo film. Hang on, I’m forgetting what this post is even about in the first place. Wait, nevermind, back on track: “Iron Man 3” has a release date but no director after Jon Favreau quit/got fired/resigned/retired to move to the country. So who’s going to direct what is, ostensibly, a high-profile and sure-to-be-successful superhero movie kickstarting the summer of 2013?
One contender mentioned by Heat Vision: Shane Black. The Shane Black, who rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s writing “Lethal Weapon” movies, “Last Action Hero” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (and “Monster Squad,” can’t forget “Monster Squad”). More importantly (to me, anyway), he has one directorial credit on his resume: 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which he wrote and directed and also happened to star The Robert Downey Jr.
I am wholeheartedly, entirely in favor of this decision. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” may have quietly arrived and departed the scene in 2005, but the movie was terrific, and Black’s self-referential, sarcastic and self-mocking script was a perfect fit for Downey’s screen presence. Remember, at that time Downey was still that guy with all of the drug arrests behind him; this movie helped rehabilitate his image, and was part of the career rejuvenation track he took with “Good Night, and Good Luck” that led him to “Zodiac” and, obviously, the first “Iron Man.”
Even better, Black is actually a writer, which bodes really well for this film. One of the (reported) issues of “Iron Man 2” was that Favreau went forward without a locked screenplay, much as they had done on the first “Iron Man.” While it worked out well the first time around, it didn’t jibe with the quickened production schedule nor other requirements (i.e. “Avengers” setup) foisted upon the sequel. Black could actually work with Downey on a screenplay to turn out a workable story, and hopefully give Downey’s Tony Stark a fitting (solo) swan song.
UPDATE II: Favreau talks to Geoff Boucher about the decision, framing it as him being excited for “Magic Kingdom,” not in any way a schism between him and the Marvel folks. He does get in a line about how he set up the whole universe for the Marvel films, but is otherwise gracious and says the right things.
UPDATE: Favreau confirms the news via Twitter. He’s out and focusing on “Magic Kingdom.”
Jon Favreau isn’t returning to helm “Iron Man 3,” according to Vulture. The director, who helped turn the 2008 film into a free-wheeling, loose-limbed superhero movie with a sense of fun, is partially responsible for the birth of the Marvel Empire (that has since spawned his own “Iron Man 2” and the upcoming “Thor,” “Captain America” and “The Avengers”). The Vulture story says his price tag has a big part of it; he took home $10 million for “Iron Man 2,” and with “Cowboys and Aliens” on his docket, he looks every bit to be the budding summer blockbuster director.
There’s another piece to this story, though. Favreau reportedly wasn’t happy with Marvel’s efforts to rush “Iron Man 2” into theaters, preferring the three-year gap followed between “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.” Marvel, wanting to launch its “Avengers” run-up, disagreed. There are also reports that Favs wasn’t too keen on Marvel stuffing his movie full of “Avengers” tie-ins (read: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow). And Favreau was instrumental in bringing Robert Downey Jr. on-board, turning the guy from a rehabbed addict to basically the hottest movie star in town. Now that Downey is at the top of the heap, he has director approval.
Is this just a negotiating tactic? Probably not. Favreau made waves before the “Iron Man 2” sequel (and he’s only a bigger commodity now, thanks to “Cowboys”), and Marvel’s reported cost-cutting on “The Avengers” (not to mention their new Disney overlords, a budget-conscious bunch) shows these are two sides who clearly don’t want to be together. Favreau’s recent public comments about not knowing what kind of sequel he would even be able to make are telling. He clearly had some idea of a film and future movies when he made the 2008 installment; it’s a shame we won’t get to see his take on the Mandarin, or whatever the hell he was plotting for “Iron Man 3.” (Some years down the line, if the whole “Avengers” thing doesn’t pan out, we will look back and wonder what could have been if Favreau were allowed to run “Iron Man” as an independent franchise, Christopher Nolan-style, not a farm team for “The Avengers” story points.)
So: Who do they get for the 2013 flick? Downey has to approve, and it has to be someone who can handle a big-budget summer flick. Of course, Marvel has picked their directors with interesting aplomb so far: Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnson and Joss Whedon. This will be the first director chosen under the Disney banner, so you wonder if they’ll pick a safer bet this time around. It’s a shame Darren Aronofsky took that “Wolverine” job without waiting to see what else might come open, eh?