Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale,
Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon 1, 2, 3, 4, Last Action Hero)
Directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Billionaire, mechanical genius and egomaniac Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) spends most of Iron Man 3 (opening today) without his famous suit on, as it focuses squarely on the man and less on the body armor. But dress it up any way you'd like: This is still your prototypical blockbuster, comic book super-hero film. With this being the fourth on-screen appearance of Iron Man (the first two installments, plus his role in last year's The Avengers), you would expect each version to top its predecessor, but Iron Man 3 feels clunky and weighed down when compared to the superior awesomeness that was The Avengers.
But even still, Marvel has created an incredibly cool big-screen universe and even mediocre adventures seem grand when taking place within it. Most film series ponderously like to end their story with a third and final tale to round out a cohesive trilogy. The Iron Man franchise bucks this trend, acting as just another installment as opposed to a "final chapter."
As was the case with recent films, like Thor, Captain America, Iron Man 2 and even The Incredible Hulk, - all of which created great anticipation for The Avengers cross-over film - these movies stand alone on their own accord, but mainly act to drive fans into a feverish frenzy as they wait for something, bigger, something better, on the horizon. In the case of Iron Man 3, we all know that it will lead us down the eventual path to The Avengers 2. And because the first Avengers ended up being well worth the wait, audiences will ultimately forgive these lesser chapters, hoping that once again the sum is greater than its parts.
Tony Stark this time around is a more mature man, beginning to finally grow up. He hasn't lost his blunt charm, but the events of The Avengers film have given birth to a darker, more insightful Stark (the happenings in "New York" are referenced throughout Iron Man 3, even creating serious anxiety attacks for Stark, but he refuses to talk about the trauma that alien attacks and gods from outer space tend to cause).
But Stark's past catches up with him, when a discarded geek, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), grows up to become a major villain. He is connected with the mysterious Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist whose anti-American attacks have increasingly deadly results and consequences. Through technology rejected by Stark Enterprises, Killian and the Mandarin are able to weaponize a technology that literally turns people into unwilling human bombs.
The past returns also in the form of Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), one of many one-night-stands Stark must have had throughout the years. Her presence complicates things a bit as Stark is trying to become more serious with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Elsewhere, Don Cheadle returns as Col. James Rhodes, now calling himself "The Iron Patriot" instead of "War Machine," and acting as the President's personal bad-ass bodyguard.
As Stark fights personal demons within his own head, the film fights back the dastard villainy of tired comic book plot cliches. The bad guys have no real motivations for being bad, other than the fact that a movie of this nature requires villains. Stark has no real reason to get involved but the film needs a hero. Whenever the bad guys get the chance, they like to reveal their evil desires and plans to the good guys, who are usually held captive at least long enough to listen.
The events in Iron Man 3 just don't unravel naturally. Still, it manages to be a fun ride, while also being convoluted and, dare I say, unnecessary, all at once. We get it, from the opening credit sequence featuring the one-hit techno song "Blue" by Eiffel 65, that Tony Stark is blue...but not much more is really revealed. I take that back: We do learn that there is a hero here and his name is Tony Stark, not necessarily his alter ego Iron Man persona.
Stark, indeed, seems capable of handling himself with or without the armor. But gone are the days of tinkering with his suit and optimizing it. Here, he has a seemingly endless supply of Iron Man costumes, all of which can be called on at any moment to fly across the room and attach itself to our hero, then shed away when not needed.
The plot works a lot like this: Things skyrocket in and out and then are discarded when they've been rendered useless. It creates a dizzying experience that, when compared to its predecessors or the holy grail of comic book films, The Avengers, Iron Man 3 seems like an out-dated model.
All this is meaningless, because Iron Man 3, or 4, or 5, or 10, is not the draw. The draw is the long, slow burn that is The Avengers 2. The kick-off to this eagerly anticipated film is now on, and the sheer excitement of that alone is enough to make Iron Man 3 satiable.
As we have been trained to do with all Marvel films, be sure to wait out the entire end credit sequence for a special secret scene. The scene - like this film - is enjoyable, if a bit of a let-down, as it does nothing to propel us towards The Avengers 2. In my opinion, anything that isn't accomplishing that is simply wasting time.
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