Mark Reviews Movies

Iron Man Three


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content)

Running Time: 2:10

Release Date: 5/3/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 2, 2013

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is facing something of an identity crisis in Iron Man Three. The suit of armor—really multiple suits at various levels of upgrades—that makes him the superhero Iron Man has become more than just a supplemental hobby to his former career as the head of a defense contractor and his lifestyle as a billionaire playboy. Now, he spends his life holed up in his cliff-side mansion and especially in the basement, where he makes fancy new gizmos for and prototypes of his high-tech armor on very little sleep.

He isn't sleeping because of the events that occurred the last time we saw Stark in The Avengers, during which New York City was attacked by aliens from a faraway world and our hero in the red-and-gold armor was nearly killed after saving the city from a nuclear warhead. Anytime someone asks him about that experience, Stark suffers an anxiety attack. The attacks are probably symptomatic of posttraumatic stress disorder, but they're really just a gimmick with a twofold purpose. The first part is to start Stark on the path of becoming someone other than just a guy who puts on a suit of armor and saves the day (Anyone who grew up dreaming of being a superhero is going to question his priorities on this matter).

The second part is kind of an inside joke on the part of screenwriters Drew Pearce and Shane Black (who also directed) to address the fact that Stark/Iron Man is no longer an insular character in his own world. He has become a component of that bigger universe of super-powered characters, where heroes pop in and out of other heroes' movies (mostly during post-credit scenes) for little reason other than to set up an unstoppable team of superheroes.

Iron Man 2 was bogged down by that side effect of the incestuous Marvel Universe, but it was anchored by Stark, a superman bordering on being an anti-hero, and the exploration of why he's such a wise-cracking smartass (A henchwoman here wonders if all has are "cheap tricks and a one-liner;" "Sweetheart," he answers, "that could be the title of my autobiography").  Peeling away at Stark's emotional and psychological armor helped to make him a more vulnerable and, hence, intriguing character.

Pearce and Black's screenplay desperately wants to pull away from Stark's adventures with those other superheroes. Any time someone mentions New York or aliens or a wormhole to another galaxy, he shuts down, starts breathing heavily, and tries to steer the conversation somewhere else. That defense mechanism of deflection has been part of Stark's character from the start, but it's taken in a different direction here. This time, the movie has no idea what makes Stark/Iron Man unique in a world where superheroes—and their issues and generic plots—are a nickel a half-dozen.

This Stark is an anonymous shadow of his former self-promoting self. Indeed, he spends part of the story running around the Midwest, where no one recognizes the man who's famous for not hiding his identity as the man behind the Iron Man suit. The plot involves a series of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley)—a mysterious figure who makes videos like Al-Qaeda, wears ornate silk robes, and speaks in an American accent with heavy enunciation—and a think tank run by Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a man with a chip on shoulder against Stark, that's creating super-soldiers who can increase their internal body temperature on a whim (Illogically, they can be killed by fire, except, of course, when the story calls for their immunity to it)—sometimes with explosive results.

Stark takes the whole affair personally after his former and his girlfriend Pepper's (Gwyneth Paltrow) current bodyguard (Jon Favreau) gets caught up in one of the attacks. He vows revenge against the Mandarin, and after the movie's only effective action sequence (It has Stark, in an incomplete prototype of his armor, trying to save two people while combating a trio of helicopters attacking his home; all the while, the entire edifice is collapsing into the ocean, leading to a few tense moments—shot from a first-person perspective—of massive pieces of rubble crashing down on him), our hero is wandering around, sans armor, trying to uncover the conspiracy targeting the President of the United States (William Sadler).

The through line of Iron Man Three is Stark's growing disinterest in being Iron Man, and it's reflected in the climactic finale in which he leaves most of the work to a group of automated Iron Men and other characters, including Don Cheadle's Col. James Rhodes/Iron Patriot (née War Machine), and a pair of scenes (one playing the doting boyfriend and the other saving the day) that see him remotely operating one of the many suits of armor (The less said about his exploits with a precocious child the better). The disconnect may be intentional for Stark to grow out of his saving-the-world-at-the-expense-of-his-life phase, but if you take away the super-suit and the devil-may-care attitude, though, what's left? Not much, the movie assures us.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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