IRON MAN 3
**** (out of 5)
May 3, 2013
Robert Downey Jr. as TONY STARK
Gwyneth Paltrow as PEPPER POTTS
Don Cheadle as COLONEL JAMES RHODES
Guy Pearce as ALDRICH KILLIAN
Rebecca Hall as MAYA HANSEN
Jon Favreau as HAPPY HOGAN
Ben Kingsley as THE MANDARIN
Studio: Marvel Studios
Directed by: Shane Black
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I tend to break with conventional opinion when it comes to the “Iron Man” movies. Sure, I thought “The Avengers” (which was at least 40 percent an “Iron Man” movie) was one of the best films of last year, but I was never wild about the first “Iron Man.”
Maybe it was my dislike for origin stories, which seem often to be marking time before the real story can start. Sure, the origin of Iron Man was important to tell since he was a secondary character in Marvel comics, and not everyone knew his history. Sure, it was a solid, fun popcorn flick for the summer, but it wasn’t the best superhero movie up to that point in time, which I heard and read several people declare.
I actually liked “Iron Man 2” a little bit more than “Iron Man.” Yeah, it served as a set-up to the Avengers characters, and that caused some pacing problems, but I still enjoyed the heck out of that film.
Now there’s a third film, which follows more of the pattern you see in a second film like “Superman II” or “Spider-Man 2.” “Iron Man 3” sees a serious crisis of conscious for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). After almost dying in space light years from Earth at the end of “The Avengers,” Stark is coming to terms with the dangers of his job… and how it can impact those closest to him. When a new terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) strikes in L.A. and puts Stark’s close friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) in a coma, Stark is out for revenge.
However, The Mandarin sends his own people after Stark, and they tear apart his life. This leaves Stark alone and without a fully-functioning suit. He must use his wits and charisma to regroup so he can thwart the terrorists’ plans.
Unlike the first two films, this one is directed by Shane Black, who is possibly best known for penning several classic 80s action movies like “Lethal Weapon.” Black also directed Downey Jr. before in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which showcased his edge and dark sense of humor. Those factors are added to this version of “Iron Man,” which deviates a bit from Favreau’s warm and fuzzy directing style.
That’s not to say that “Iron Man 3” is overly dark or morose. It’s not. It just tends to go to places that the other two movies didn’t. It cuts closer to the bone, particularly for the character of Tony Stark. He’s beaten down, almost beyond recovery. This reveals an interesting subtext which actually shows a level of introspection in the character that we haven’t seen since the first film when he realized that his company’s weaponry was in the hands of some pretty awful people.
Still, “Iron Man 3” remains a fun superhero action film that can be enjoyed by most of the family. Black keeps the level of tongue-in-cheek humor alive, which with Downey Jr.’s dry delivery, has become a defining element of the franchise.
“Iron Man 3” is a big movie, with a grander feel than the other two. Yet, it doesn’t seem so big that it becomes silly when Stark refuses to call in the Avengers. He’s still facing a realistic foe for himself, and he doesn’t need any help from a supersoldier, a god with a hammer or a green-skinned rage-aholic.
There’s a lot going on in the story, which makes it a bit difficult to fully summarize without heading deep into spoiler territory. Below that 10,000-foot-level plot description, there’s some neat stuff happening, and its enough to justify its two-hour-plus running time. I never felt bored or lost, which is more than I can say for the two-hour-plus films that have been released lately (I’m looking at you, “Oblivion” and “Pain & Gain”).
Dare I say it’s the best Iron Man film yet? I dare.