Iron Man 3 (2013)

7 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Funny, I kind of thought last year’s “The Avengers” was “Iron Man 3” in a way (that would also make it “Thor 2,” “Captain America 2,” and “The Incredible Hulk 2” in that same sense), but…whatever. It doesn’t matter. Robert Downey Jr.’s memorable, likeable, witty, solid Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man is back for more, and he’s more than welcome on the big screen. With more action and more humor, “Iron Man 3” is the best in the popular superhero-movie franchise (based on the Marvel comic book series) since the original five years ago. The second film may have been somewhat disappointing for fans of the original; this third film (yes, I might as well quit calling “The Avengers” a “third film” in this franchise—it’s not necessarily fair anway) is more than likely to satisfy those fans and more. It’s action-packed, intense, funny, and well-executed. A good time at the movies.

People who were disappointed by “Iron Man 2” may be satisfied with this film. But if people are expecting something as big and bombastic as “The Avengers,” that may be reason for them to be disappointed. But it may also be too much to hope for. This is a smaller picture by comparison, not relying entirely on a large amount of action, explosions, and CGI. But not to worry—there are still enough extended action sequences to deliver, which is what we expect in summer entertainment.

“Iron Man 3” takes place shortly after the climactic New York battle in “The Avengers,” as Tony Stark is back in Malibu making more improvements on his new “Iron Man” suits (such as making parts of the suit fly over to him and attach themselves). But he suffers from insomnia and anxiety attacks that may have to do with his experience in the “wormhole” (for those who recall, it may not have been easy to escape from). This doesn’t do well with his relationship with his lovely girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), as he spends more time in his basement-laboratory than in the bed with her at night.

A new villain has entered the story—two, actually. One is a terrorist, known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and the other is his henchman, a slimy genius named Killian (Guy Pearce). They attack mostly with a special kind of suicide bombers—people who are altered to explode after their missions are complete. After one of these attacks puts Tony’s bodyguards, Happy (Jon Favreau, not directing this “Iron Man” movie, by the way), in a coma, Tony makes a public threat to the Mandarin, swearing revenge. In response, the Mandarin’s army attacks Tony’s mansion with great force, leaving Tony for dead. But Tony is still alive (though with limited materials and a low-on-paper Iron Man suit) in a small Tennessee town, and so he must find a way to stop the Mandarin before he strikes for the President (William Sadler).

Where are the other Avengers during all of this? You’d think that an assassination plot for the President would get their attention, but no. Tony and his friend Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who is now the “Iron Patriot,” are the only ones with the right abilities to stop it. Wouldn’t it be rather awesome if the Hulk suddenly came in and smacked Killian to near-death?

There is plenty of action and humor to please audiences. The best action sequences are the attack on the mansion; a low-scale barfight with one of the “suicide bombers”; and the climactic final battle on a ship, in which the ultimate deus ex machina is brought upon to help (you either accept it or you don’t; I thought it was rather awesome). The film is briskly paced and high on energy, but also has plenty of humor. There are Tony’s one-liners, which are always welcome because they’re delivered by Downey with great sharp wit every time. There are some neat visual gags involving the suits. And there’s also a nice buddy-comedy element in that Tennessee town, in which Tony gains assistance from a smart young boy and they banter like Murtaugh and Riggs.

We’re used to seeing Tony Stark as a wisecracking, cocky, likeable cutup (who also happens to be a rich genius), so it’s refreshing to see another side to him. These anxiety attacks say a lot about his vulnerability, giving him even more dimensions than we thought he had. The only little problem I had with this movie was that the attacks don’t have much of a payoff. Why not have these memories of the wormhole come back to him somehow during the climax? There would be more psychological conflict that way.

Robert Downey Jr.—what can you say? It’s RDJ. He’s Tony Stark. He’s always solid and powerful when playing this role. The rest of the actors are no slouches either—they’re very game and do credible jobs. Gwyneth Paltrow does more than play the love-interest and she gives us more reason to sympathize with her—she even sports the Iron Man suit at one point (awesome). Don Cheadle is great as the new “Iron Patriot” (formerly known as “War Machine”). Guy Pearce is suitably slimy and callous and does what the role requires him to do.

If this is the final installment in the series, it wouldn’t be very surprising, as it does have the final of a concluding entry (and a satisfactory one at that). But I am sort of hoping that at least one of the other post-“Avengers” movies feature Robert Downey Jr.’s character of Tony Stark, because he really is the most engaging of the team, and the most amusing. Either way, “Iron Man 3” is a terrific superhero-movie sequel. It’s enjoyable, engaging, and fun all the way through.

NOTE: Stay after the end-credits for a little bonus treat. (And no, it’s not Samuel L. Jackson in an eye-patch again.)

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