Summer movie season blasts off with Iron Man 3, which finds Tony Stark in a downward spiral after surviving his suicide mission in The Avengers. Can he rally back when the country finds itself at the mercy of terrorists once again? (Hmm… what do you think?)
Who’s in it? Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Don Cheadle (Col. Rhodes/Iron Patriot), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Rebecca Hall (Dr. Maya Hansen), Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin), Jon Favreau (Happy), Ty Simpkins (Harley)
What’s it about? Fresh off of diverting a nuclear missile through a wormhole to a universe ruled by aliens in order to save humankind, only to fall back to Earth and be saved by The Hulk, to say that Tony Stark is a bit shaken would be an understatement. He’s questioning everything about life, the world and the existence he’s come to take for granted. As his navel-gazing continues and his sleepless-night tally rises, he realizes there’s something else he’s taken for granted: his live-in girlfriend and CEO of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts.
Now that Stark feels like he really has something to lose, he’s vulnerable. But that doesn’t stop him from shooting his mouth off to reporters after a threat emerges close to home. That’s right, there’s a new bad guy in town: “The Mandarin,” a goateed, ring-and-robe-wearing, staccato-voiced terrorist who’s been usurping American TV stations and cranking out freaky videos after each deadly explosion he claims to have orchestrated. Stark’s loyal bodyguard Happy is a victim of one of those explosions, and so now it’s personal. So much so that on national news, Tony invites The Mandarin over to duke it out mano a mano.
Stark is bent on revenge and just wants to feel in control again, and as a result he doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to a strange fellow who’s re-entered his and Pepper’s lives. The nerdy scientist Aldrich Killian was blown off by Stark back in ’99, only to harness that rejection as motivation to make his “regenerative virus,” dubbed Extremis, a reality. There are a few BIG problems with Extremis, however, and Dr. Maya Hansen was planning to warn Stark and Pepper about them just as The Mandarin decided to take Tony up on his invitation.
That home visit ends with Tony at the bottom of the ocean and The Mandarin making another ominous threat about an upcoming attack. And it’s not too long before Pepper’s snatched by bad guys while Tony’s out of commission. So basically, everything goes to hell. Can Tony save the country AND Pepper? Or will he be forced to make a choice?
What’s good? My favorite scenes in Iron Man 3 came in a very unexpected form: sarcastic banter between Tony and a random tween named Harley that he meets while investigating The Mandarin’s background. Some of the things Stark says to this kid are SO inappropriate, but that’s of course what makes them laugh-out-loud funny. And thankfully Ty Simpkins (Insidious), who plays Harley, is not one of those annoying child actors. He can hold his own against Robert Downey Jr., and that’s saying something. Because we all know the reason this franchise has been so incredibly successful is because of its leading man.
In general, I enjoyed the film much more when Stark wasn’t in his Iron Man get-up. It was interesting to see him taken down a notch by the events in The Avengers, but no so much that he lost his edge. And overall, that was a big theme of the movie: who’s really the hero – Tony Stark or Iron Man? Who is the man when he’s without his suit?
What could’ve been better? Either I’m growing immune to epic finale battles and action sequences in general, or some of those scenes simply dragged on too long in Iron Man 3. I DID think all of the different Iron Man suits that appeared in the film were really cool, but eventually I stopped trying to figure out what was going on because there was just so much STUFF whizzing around on-screen. I also thought that the villain subplot was weak, for reasons I can’t really get into without major spoilers. Director Shane Black (reuniting with Downey Jr after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), who took over the series from Jon Favreau, was smart enough to let his leading man shine most of the time, but the scenes where Stark wasn’t front and center suffered.
The bottom line: I didn’t think Iron Man 3 was as good as the original Iron Man or last summer’s Avengers, but it is heads and tails above Iron Man 2, and is still an enjoyable popcorn movie worthy of kicking off the Summer 2013 season.
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