IRON MAN 3 (PG-13)
IRON CLAD ACTION
If you don’t know it by now – watching an Iron Man film is like riding your favorite roller-coaster at the park; you know you have ridden it before, but you just can’t help getting on for one more ride. Well, the third installment of the Iron Man franchise was all that and more. Iron Man 3 possessed all the elements of earlier renditions like fast paced action and the sarcastic one-liners, and the over-the-top computer graphic images; yet new director, Shane Black (stepping into Jon Favreau’s shoes) brought a different flavor to the successful Marvel Comics hero.
The first few minutes of the film were an artistic departure from the usual formula, and frankly, I wondered briefly if I would enjoy the rest of the story. It opens with Tony Stark reflecting on how a seemingly trivial occurrence years before leads to devastating unforeseen circumstances. He is a panic-stricken man beating back personal demons while trying to recover from the effects of the alien attack in New York (think Avengers). His Iron Man persona, now larger-than-life has left him in an identity crisis where the man and creation are inseparable. The film seemed to me a bit slow in those early minutes as director, Black filled in the back-story to the plot. I was about ready to grab 40 winks waiting for the action scenes when it took off on a magnificent adrenalin ride of G-force acceleration.
Arch villain, the Mandarin has erupted onto the scene committing a series of heinous international terrorist acts sparking fear and dread on the world’s stage. These radically senseless and violent bombings are unexplainable by the world’s leading military and demolition experts. With characteristic arrogance, Stark throws down the public gauntlet swearing to find and destroy the Mandarin only to discover he has grossly underestimated the man’s true agenda.
Downey is to Stark what Depp is to Sparrow and he returns to the part with the familiarity of one wearing an old shoe. But, this time he pulls out a splattering of his rarely seen acting brilliance to reveal Stark as a man stricken with panic attacks – the pompous superhero on the verge of a breakdown. Stark’s been stripped of all he holds dear, and struggles to make a comeback and reclaim his empire. If a lessor actor had played this part it would have come across like a caricature, but Downey gave Stark the 3-dimensional depth needed to make you root for him one more time. He mixes that oh-so-familiar astringent-flavored humor in with his embattled struggles to bring his super world and his personal world back into focus.
The other returning actors (Don Cheadle, and Gwyneth Paltrow) were clearly comfortable returning to their roles as James Rhodes and Pepper Potts. I must say that Paltrow’s role expanded with this installment and she gets to be far more than Tony Stark’s eye candy business partner. Added into the pot were Ben Kingsley (Hugo) as the Mandarin and Guy Pierce (Prometheus) as the surreptitious Aldrich Killian. Kingsley’s turn as the arch-villain Mandarin had a cookie cutter feeling to it, which was unfortunate because Kingsley is one of the leading actors of our day. Of the two cast additions it was Pierce, as Killian Aldrich who kept the mystery of the plot alive as the brilliant but overlooked biogenic genius. He is a self made mogul finalizing a breakthrough called Extremis a bio-tech inoculation that produces superhuman, indestructible humanoids. Aldrich achieves power through anonymity and weaves his way between the other characters in the story with oily, neurotic calculation.
There were plenty of twists and turns in the film to keep even the most jaded action movie fan tantalized; and there was even the refreshing return of Jon Favreau (the former director) back in the actor’s seat as Happy Hogan. One of the things I always get a big kick out of is the Iron Man suit upgrades, and I was not disappointed to see they had morphed into another character in the movie.
With Hollywood so keenly in love with the movie sequel you almost want to mourn every time you hear that one more sequel is being made. Some sequels are way better than others (you know what I mean). But, IM3 shows us once again that some formulas continue to work despite their familiarity. Or perhaps there’s just something we love about Tony Stark that keeps us coming back for another helping. But – love it, or hate it this recent addition to the Marvel Comics Universe has grossed 1 billion dollars worldwide to date, and that is enough iron-clad success to having Tinseltown eagerly clammering for Iron Man 4.