Iron Man 3
by Michael Walters
The Cantankerous Critic
Iron Man 3 is both a step up and a step down from the now much maligned (however unfairly) Iron Man 2.
It has a smarter story and a better villain, but on the downside, Robert Downey Jr.’s egotistical motor-mouthed Tony Stark might have finally reached his expiration date. Patter that sounded fresh before sounds a little tired today, perhaps because over the course of the previous two films and “The Avengers” we’ve become so accustomed to it. He hasn’t quite crossed the line into tiresome yet, but he’s pushing it. Downey Jr. will have to give the character a few upgrades to make him feel fresh again.
Iron Man 3 is the first Marvel movie since “The Avengers,” and we find the normally confident Tony Stark a sleepless wreck. He spends his nights building more and more Iron Man suits, while struggling with panic attacks induced by the events of “The Avengers.” This almost becomes a running gag, though, since the mere mention of “New York” is enough to send his fragile psyche curling up into a fetal position. And it is the panicked, weakened Tony Stark who is called on to save the world from a terrifying new enemy known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
The Mandarin is an international terrorist who periodically hijacks U.S. broadcast signals to deliver his message of fear. He’s declaring war on the United States, and he brings the war right to Tony’s front doorstep. He is also working with another brilliant scientist (Guy Pierce looking like he raided Sonny Crocket’s closet) who has a score to settle.
Writer-director Shane Black knows how to shake up the structure of an action movie. He’s one of the few writers and directors who actually knows how to use a voice-over effectively, so it unfolds as a recollection of a story, rather than an adventure playing out live in front of us. His smart script packs in a few clever twists (which I won’t spoil here) that help mitigate the feeling that we’ve seen this all before, even though we kind of have.
Gwyneth Paltrow might have become a polarizing presence off-screen lately, but she’s just fine here. The script calls for her to kick a little ass and get into the Iron Man suit herself. It doesn’t necessarily suit her, but she keeps from embarrassing herself. And Don Cheadle is dependable as always.
Iron Man 3 tries its best to add some pizazz, but it does succumb to some sequelitis in spots, hoping that more of something equals better. An army of Iron Man suits is cool for now, but it doesn’t solve the problem of where do we go from here in the post-Avengers universe.
It’s getting harder for Marvel to find new villains to fight and new worlds to save, without feeling like they’re repeating themselves. I’d still rather spend time with Robert Downey Jr. than with Thor any day, but this installment has exposed a potentially fatal chink in Iron Man’s armor.