What It's About
Billionaire bon vivant Tony Stark's avenging alter-ego takes on two arch-villains in the turbo-charged "Iron Man 3" -- The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a geeky scientist (Guy Pearce) he once scorned.
Saving the world is taking its toll on our conflicted super-hero. Panic attacks and malfunctioning hardware are just two of our snarky Marvel daredevil's many problems.
This mostly dandy third installment is both clever and charming, with a cute little kid (Ty Simpkins of "Insidious") adding a cheery subplot. Naturally, there are bigger, faster, louder kabooms -- plenty of bombastic firepower to make a big impact.
When a terrorist randomly bombs places in America, it's a tad unsettling in light of recent events. There's a sharper edge because of the world we live in now -- not far removed from fantasy.
Glib Robert Downey Jr.'s rapid-fire delivery of quips and his character's egotistical devil-may-care attitude is the main reason for this blockbuster's success, for he adds much oomph to the genre's traditional format. You anticipate Tony's comebacks, and his banter with backwoods Tennesseeans is a gem.
Downey is intense, and his character's ego fills the screen, but it's not off-putting. The fact that this superhero is complex and has a variety of mental, emotional and physical issues makes it worth sitting through the endless explosions and numerous heavy-metal suit mishaps.
Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts has the standard "I'm in love with a superhero, so I'm not first priority" storyline. Here, she's used as a pawn by the villain, somebody she used to know.
As for villains, Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") is priceless as the nefarious Osama bin Laden-like bad guy known as The Mandarin. He is in cahoots with Aldrich Killian, a brilliant scientist now gone to the dark side, and Guy Pearce ("L.A. Confidential") shows a considerable flair playing this weirdo.
Don Cheadle, as the War Machine, busts out some nifty action-hero moves too. A cavalcade of supporting players add to the politics and patriotism plot: William Sadler, William Hurt, James Badge Dale and Miquel Ferrer. Jon Favreau, who directed the first two, again plays Happy, the zealous right-hand man concerned with security.
Not as bloated as the second one, "Iron Man 3" delivers what people expect, and the visual effects are spectacular, especially any time they are zooming through the skies. An airplane's staff rescue is one big "wow."
There's comfort in the rituals, such as Iron Man's exasperated conversations with his robot Jarvis (Paul Bettany voice), the anticipated cameo of Marvel mastermind Stan Lee, the end-credits payoff, and really cool gadgets and hardware.
The fun spirit and humor is used effectively, but the danger is real, too.
What Doesn't Work
While the danger is present, it's not as clear as one would hope. What exactly is the motive behind Killian's engineering of an army with super-human strength?
The plot can get slightly muddled, but overall, Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon") did an effective job as director and co-writer.
If this is the last one starring Downey, then the series goes out with a big bang.
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau.
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content