On Sunday, 5 May 2013, Janice and I met Beruk A., Sara F. & Josh C., fellow blogger Ken G., and Ken’s friends Carly and Nick for Iron Man 3 at the Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Mass. We all enjoyed the superhero sequel. I’ll try to avoid “spoilers” in this review, but note that some of the links enclosed below may lead to story details.
Plot: Iron Man 3 picks up shortly after the events of The Avengers, Disney/Marvel’s blockbuster team-up movie. Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, inventor Tony Stark is still tinkering on his suits of armor and has a steady relationship with Pepper Potts, but storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.
A flashback to 1999 shows us Stark’s more narcissistic ways, as well as the roots of some of his current problems. He hooks up with scientist Maya Hansen but ignores her research, as well as Aldrich Killian, the then-geeky founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM). The pseudoscience is based on Warren Ellis’ “Extremis” storyline from Marvel Comics.
In the present, Stark is suffering from panic attacks after fighting aliens in The Avengers. A mysterious man calling himself “the Mandarin” takes credit for terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. (These were uncomfortable to watch so soon after the Boston Marathon bombings.) Hansen’s Extremis technology is involved, as are the Mandarin, AIM, and a plot to attack Air Force One.
Soon, Tony must deal with personal attacks on him and those closest to him, including Pepper, security chief Happy Hogan, and Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine/Iron Patriot. The armored Avenger must rediscover his strengths and stop his enemies.
Acting: As in the previous Iron Man films, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the cocksure Tony Stark is the big draw. Downey’s high-strung, wisecracking persona is nearly indistinguishable at this point from Stark’s. He is ably supported by Gwyneth Paltrow as the cool executive Pepper Potts, former director Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, and Don Cheadle as stalwart Rhodey.
They are joined by newcomers Rebecca Hall as troubled Maya Hansen, Guy Pearce as the sketchy Aldrich Killian, and Ben Kingsley sporting an odd accent as the Mandarin (who has been altered from a racist Asian stereotype to an Osama bin Laden-like figure). Ty Simpkins plays a bratty youngster who helps Tony when he’s at his lowest. The supporting characters’ motivations aren’t completely explained, but who’s good and who’s bad does become clear.
Direction: I enjoyed Shane Black’s noir comedy Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which helped revive Downey’s career. He allows the cast to trade witty banter and relax into their roles, despite the dire circumstances the characters find themselves in.
A few reviewers recommended approaching Iron Man 3 as a comedy that happens to involve superheroes rather than as a straight superhero movie. I agree — if you’re able to enjoy the relationships and not worry too much about political commentary or plot holes, you’ll like Iron Man 3.
The pacing flags a bit when Stark must rebuild his machinery and track down his enemies, and the movie becomes more predictable about two-thirds of the way through. On the other hand, the end and postcredits coda are still satisfying. I haven’t seen the China-only footage (no doubt designed for major audiences and investors).
Visual effects: Adi Granov’s designs for Stark’s suits see several variations, and the attacks on Stark’s California mansion and Air Force One are impressive, even if they’ve been spoiled a bit in trailers and commercials.
The final battle — between Iron Men, Iron Patriot, and Extremis-powered goons on an abandoned oil rig — is explosive, but it suffers from length, too many parties flying around too quickly, and the fact that it takes place at night (as with many other superhero flicks, so that computer-generated imagery is less noticeable).
Score: The soundtrack is decent, and like the 1970s-style closing credits, it harkens back to the previous Iron Man films. There isn’t a memorable theme, but Iron Man 3‘s music does heighten the suspense.
Rating: I enjoyed the quieter character-driven moments and some of Downey hamming it up more than the set-piece scenes, even though, as a comic book fan, I would want to see him suited up more often.
Overall, I’d give Iron Man 3, which is 130 minutes long and rated PG-13 for violence and innuendo, an 8 out of 10, three and a half stars, or a B+. I liked it more than Iron Man 2, if not as much as the first Iron Man or The Avengers.
I’ve been pretty busy for the past few weekends, but I’ll report on them separately. In the coming weeks, I look forward to Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel (the latest Superman movie, not to be confused with Iron Man). As Stan “the Man” Lee says, Excelsior!