Movies: Iron Man 3

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley
Directed By: Shane Black
Written By: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Marvel Studios, 2013
PG-13; 130 min
4.5 stars (out of 5)


Iron Man 3 (or Three, per the credits) is an old-school action flick that doesn't offer many surprises but provides solid entertainment. Since I got what I came for, I give it a near perfect score in that regard.

Here's the thing: IM3 gives me lots of RDJr. as Tony Sntark, a fair number of great acting moments for him to do what he does best, and a clean story line with no fluff. It isn't pretentious, doesn't try to be anything more than it is. Like Stark himself, the attitude here is: Take me as I am. Or don't. I don't care either way.

And based on box office, lots of people are taking Stark and IM3 up on that offer.

At the start of the film it is New Year's Eve 1999 and Stark is living it up in Switzerland, there for a conference and to make time with fellow scientist/researcher Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall, doing as solid work as ever with the little she's given). Hansen has been working on regeneration, starting with plants, getting them to repair and replace damaged or missing leaves and stalks. Stark and Hansen are approached by Aldrich Killian (Pearce) about some ideas he has but Stark blows him off. Without much trouble, anyone can see where this is going to go.

Fast forward 13 years and we have Stark holed up in his homemade R&D working on Mark 42 of the Iron Man suit. He hardly sleeps any more; ever since the alien attack of Avengers, Stark suffers anxiety and nightmares. But of course his real problems turn out to be much closer to home: Pepper is frustrated with him, there are terrorist threats from some guy called The Mandarin, and there's that guy from 13 years ago who's still really mad about that whole thing.

The story goes on a pretty direct route from there. Stark issues a counter threat against The Mandarin and gets Pepper kidnapped for his trouble. Follows a trail of info to Tennessee where he interacts with the requisite cute kid—and while many will groan, I have to say these were some of the nicest moments in the movie, not at all sentimental (not Stark's style), but with punchy barbs of humor. Stark is perhaps just another version of Lethal Weapon's Martin Riggs: that same brusque way of dealing with anything that gets too close to heartfelt, that same swagger and sarcastic self-assurance meant to hide an unstable and insecure core. Shane Black did it well then and he does it well now, even if it offers not a whole lot of new material.

The pacing here is good. Though the first 20 or so minutes made the kids restless and bored, before long there were regular enough action sequences to keep them engaged. And by the time the "Party Protocol" showed up at the end, everyone was solidly invested. (Well, okay, my three-year-old was asleep, but at least he wasn't fussing.) What's better than one Iron Man? Two! And what's better than two Iron Men? Lots more!

The dénouement was a bit of a cram down the throat as Stark hastily narrated several outcomes, but maybe that's just as well. As they say, once you're done, get out quick. Don't linger. You've hit your high point, your big climax, don't drag the audience back down with a lot of summing up. So maybe this was the only way—or at least the best way—to answer all remaining questions without taking up another 30–40 minutes of screen time.

I won't linger either. I'll just say I really enjoyed IM3. It's no piece of art, but it's not meant to be. But for what it is—solid action entertainement—it does its work efficiently and well.

SPOILER (highlight to read):

The one thing that did bug me was that they turned The Mandarin into comic relief. Kingsley did it well, but I didn't love that bit. I shaved off points for that.

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