By Linc Leifeste | May 3, 2013
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Drew Pearce (screenplay), Shane Black (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book), Don Heck (comic book), Larry Lieber (comic book), Jack Kirby (comic book)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, William Sadler, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer
Let’s make this simple. Iron Man 3 > Iron Man 2. Iron Man 3 ≥ Iron Man. If that’s all you need to know, you’re set. Stop reading and go buy your tickets.
For the rest of you, let me say that I have a love/hate relationship with the Iron Man franchise. I love Robert Downey Jr. I grew up reading Iron Man comics. I love seeing childhood heroes on the big screen. But I tend to get extremely bored with action movies and have a distaste for CGI-filled summer blockbusters. All of that leaves me in a quandary because this franchise is generally smarter and funnier than most summer blockbuster/superhero/action films but this is still a Disney/Marvel summer blockbuster so is sure to be filled with big CGI action sequences, explosions, nearly indestructible over the top villains who are dead..NO, WAIT…they’re NOT dead! You get my drift. I have fun! I get bored! I laugh! I get annoyed! I get drawn in! I look for a Marvel tie-in or three! I roll my eyes and look for the exit as the grand finale action sequence drags on and on! And finally I enjoy the stylish closing sequence and don’t dare get up early because I know if I do I’ll miss some bonus footage after the credits roll.
Since last we saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) saving New York with his fellow Avengers, life has been rolling along. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is firmly in place as CEO of Stark Enterprises and romantic partner to Stark, who is struggling with panic attacks related to the trauma of his epic New York adventures detailed in The Avengers. In need of some down time, there’s clearly no rest for the weary as a mysterious terrorist going under the moniker of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is highjacking the TV airwaves to issue threats to the President (William Sadler) and nation while celebrating bombings and televising executions. With the cadence of a Southern Baptist preacher, flowing Asian robes, and an Orientalist appearance he’s mysterious and potently terrifying.
At the same time, through an early flashback, we’re introduced to another potential villain in Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). A brilliant and odd researcher with a physical disability and unkempt appearance, seeking validation and support from his perceived peer Stark, Killian is treated shamefully by the wisecracking and arrogant scientist playboy. But years later, Killian has suddenly shown up at Stark Enterprises a new man, no longer disabled and looking like he just walked off the cover of GQ. Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), head of Stark’s security, is convinced Killian and his lobby-loitering hired muscle Savin (James Badge Dale) are up to no good. In the course of following them upon their departure, he winds up at Mann Chinese Theater and finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time during one of the Mandarin’s bombings. With his friend Hogan in critical condition, an angry Stark issues a challenge to the Mandarin and the die is cast.
By the time the CGI Iron Man army, just a lot of empty suits with the exception of the Iron Patriot, formerly the War Machine, who is piloted by Stark’s old pal Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) except when it’s not, engages the nearly indestructible forces of the Mandarin, what has been a sharply written and solidly acted character-driven comedic relationship film which just happens to feature super-folks takes the inevitable turn to blockbuster action and loses most of my interest as a result. But before that, what a fun ride it is. The decision to hand the franchise over to director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was a wise one, giving the franchise a much needed shot in the arm after the disappointing second chapter. The writing is smart, the dialogue sharp and there is a major plot twist that I did not see coming which truly floored me and then kept me down there rolling around laughing. Without giving anything away, let me just say that Ben Kingsley steals the show, which is no small accomplishment when you’re in a film alongside Robert Downey, Jr.