Dir. Shane Black ($1.2 billion)
Marvel flew high after the success of The Avengers made it the third-highest grossing motion picture of all time. The studio felt tremendous pressure to continue the quality (and profit margin) of The Avengers. How? They took the most bankable property, gave it $200 million, hired the director of Lethal Weapon, and learned from the mistakes of the last Iron Man sequel. The biggest problem with Iron Man 2 was the constant nudges and hints to an Avengers formation. Iron Man 3 makes a point of being another stand-alone Iron Man adventure, like the first installment. Tony Stark quips every once in a while about how much he doesn’t want to talk about New York. Like Captain America: The First Avenger,Stark also faced a pair of diabolical, terrorist geniuses in Guy Pearce’s (Memento, The Time Machine) Aldrich Killian and Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley’s (Hugo, Gandhi) The Mandarin. However, these villains truly are one in the same as The Mandarin is revealed to be an actor hired to play a role distracting from Killian’s involvement.
After Jon Favreau declined to return to direct the third film, Marvel hired Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Black directed Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, one of his most celebrated, memorable performances. When the writer can hone in on his or her lead’s strengths, it makes for an audience treat. Black’s ability to write male camaraderie shined in Rhodey and Stark’s scenes, as well. The problem with this film became rather unique as the outcry of fan-favorite Mandarin’s role was nothing more than a ruse. Marvel reacted rather quickly and made a short film (they call them a “One Shot”) called All Hail The King for the Thor: The Dark World blu ray. The brief plot involved breaking Kingsley’s actor from prison to face the real Mandarin’s wrath. Outside of this, fans had few problems as IM3 became Disney-Marvel’s second consecutive billion-dollar blockbuster. The only concrete Avengers nod was a post-credits cameo from Mark Ruffalo as Banner in a medical capacity to explain Stark’s narration. Marvel clearly gave a damn and it took them all the way to the bank. Perhaps they have Downey to thank? The billion-dollar success gave Downey a huge pay bump for two Avengers sequels.