One of the more bizarre patterns spotted in writer/director Shane Black’s filmography is the number of films that begin with the letter “L.” Since kicking off his career in 1987, four of the seven movies he’s written and/or directed have started the same way, previously making Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and Long Kiss Goodnight. Unfortunately, Black’s latest film Iron Man 3 doesn’t fit the alphabetical requirement, but it really doesn’t matter when you consider that the writer/director left his calling cards all over the rest of the movie.
From the time of year that the superhero flick is set to the whip-smart dialogue to the genre and pacing, the latest Marvel Studios title is unquestionably a movie straight from the mind of its director. But how exactly does the movie fall in line with the rest of Black’s work? Read on to find out!
Do you know why Die Hard was set at Christmas? Because producer Joel Silver saw how well the holiday worked as a backdrop for an action movie while working on Lethal Weapon and wanted to reuse the motif. And, as I’ve written extensively about before, the holiday season has followed Black his entire career. Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout, Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (his directorial debut), were all set during Christmas, and now Iron Man 3 has joined the group.
And it’s not just the fact that the superhero movie is set during the holidays, but the say in which the season affects the characters and the story. From Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs to Bruce Willis' Joe Hallenbeck, Black likes to write about lonely characters, and it’s not hard to see why that would be highlighted at Christmas. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is surrounded by people, but also completely isolated within himself due to the trauma experienced during the Battle of New York. But Black’s films are certainly not without their warmth as well, which leads me to my next point…
You Can Tolerate The Kid Characters
Kids and Christmas are two elements that regularly go hand in hand in Hollywood and Black’s films are no exception. But as every movie-watcher knows, working with children characters is often a dangerous path to tread down. Sometimes you get stuck with a young actor who, as it turns out, doesn’t know how to act, and even if the actor is perfect there’s always the potential snake trap of making the kid too cute or annoying. But Black has never had trouble.
The Monster Squad, Last Action Hero, and The Last Boy Scout all have main characters played by child actors, and all of them succeed because Black writes the roles like they’re normal people who happen to be kids. What's not to love about the rebellion of foul-mouthed Darian Hallenbeck, played by a young Danielle Harris in Boy Scout, or the fun enthusiasm of Austin O'Brien's Danny Madigan as he pals around with Arnold Schwarzenegger? In Iron Man 3 Tony Stark winds up stranded in Rose Hill, Tennessee and ends up with a kid assistant named Harley (Ty Simpkins) who helps him with his investigation. As questionable as that may sound on paper, the banter between Tony and Harley is some of the best in the movie and responsible for some of the funniest moments.