IRON MAN 3
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Comic Book
Running Time: 140 mins.
Premise: Set after the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) grapples with post-traumatic stress disorder, while a new villain called The Mandarin threatens to hit Tony close to home (literally), endangering everything and everyone he holds dear.
Behind-the-Scenes: Co-writer/director Shane Black previously worked with Downey on 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. With an opening weekend box office take of $174 million, Iron Man 3 had the second largest opening of all time, after (of course) The Avengers. Downey is not signed for any more Marvel movies after this. Will he come back?
The Good: Though it lacks the origin highs of the first Iron Man and is way different in tone from what's come before, this third entry proves the most consistently entertaining and creatively inspired of the three. Much of the credit for that has to do with Shane Black, who injects as much of himself into the proceedings as possible. From the Christmas-time setting to the quippy buddy dialogue between Stark and Don Cheadle's Rhodie to the voiceover narration, this movie just reeks of Black's imprint. Trust me, that's a good thing. Downey continues to command the screen as Stark, always giving it 100%; never phoning it in. The story takes several twists and turns that you'll never see coming. And if you do, you're a liar. The Iron Man suit itself gets several impressive updates, with Stark now able to pull the suit on in pieces, kind of like a magnet. There are two terrific action set pieces toward the end: (1) set in mid-air, as Iron Man tries to rescue several falling passengers from Air Force One; and (2) the big climax set on (where else?) a giant industrial dock. Ben Kingsley gives a hugely memorable and enjoyable turn as the Mandarin.
The Bad: Oddly introspective at times, and kind of drags in the middle when Stark finds himself in Tennessee befriending a little boy. To its credit, that storyline isn't too sappy, but it's still pretty dumb and seems crassly designed to appeal to kids. The henchman characters are interchangeable, and none fail to make much of an impression (even James Badge Dale). Cheadle is given short shrift, and barely factors into the plot. Some may find the movie too jokey for its own good. If you were expecting a more serious Iron Man with shades of Dark Knight, you're not going to find it here.
Should You See It?: Yes. It's not as good as The Avengers, but it's a solid start to summer, and an even better catalyst for Marvel Phase Two.
Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars.