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Iron Man 3
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Bang Bang, Bang Bang"
3 stars

The original "Iron Man" (2008) was a fairly routine superhero origin saga that was thoroughly enlivened by an unexpectedly winning performance by Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, a cheerfully self-absorbed playboy who found himself transforming from a smug and wisecracking war profiteer into a smug and wisecracking savior with the aid of his keen intellect, billion-dollar bank account and a metal suit that allowed him to fly through the air and rain destruction on any and all enemies whenever things began to flag. Downey was also the best thing about the inevitable "Iron Man 2" (2010) but this time around, the pleasant surprise of his performance was no longer and the film tried to make up for it with a lame and instantly forgettable villain in Mickey Rourke, the admittedly more inspiring sight of Scarlett Johansson in a black leather catsuit as Black Widow and a plot that seemed more interested in setting up last summer's superhero mash-up "The Avengers" than in anything else.

"Iron Man 3" is not quite as good as the original "Iron Man," better than "Iron Man 2" and nowhere near as entertaining as "The Avengers." Really, is there anything else to be said about it? On the one hand, it does make a little more of an effort to entertain rather than rest on past glories than the supremely lazy second film and it has more of a zip to it as a result. On the other hand, Downey's performance is once again the best thing that the franchise has going for it but even that can't help but feel a bit rote in this fourth go-around as the character nor can it make up for a blandly uninteresting villain and a convoluted screenplay that seems to go out of its way to ensure that it doesn't work at times.

Set a few months after the events of "The Avengers," Tony is living in a reasonable facsimile of bliss with his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), the newly installed C.E.O of Stark Enterprises, though the lingering emotional scars over his experiences battling gods over the skies of New York has driven his paranoia to new heights that can only be tempered by tinkering in his workshop on an ever-increasing collection of Iron Man suits. Meanwhile, the outside world is being rocked by a series of increasingly violent bombings orchestrated by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an elusive terrorist whose resemblance to Osama bin Laden is surely just a wild coincidence. At first, Tony is content to leave the hunt in the hands of longtime friend Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who now fights bad guys in his own Stark-designed suit as Iron Patriot, but when the latest attack, this time on the famed Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, hits a little too close to home, he not only publicly vows to bring Mandarin to justice but supplies the guy with his home address to boot.

As is the case with most direct challenges to international terrorists in the first act of blockbuster summer movies, this turns out to not be the smartest play and before long, Mandarin's forces lay siege to Tony's cliffside abode, sending it plunging into the ocean and Tony, along with a malfunctioning suit, hurtling off to rural Tennessee. While there, he begins to do some investigating into Mandarin's whereabouts and how his bombs can go off without leaving behind any sort of traceable signature. Without going into too much detail, it can be said that there are a couple of people from Stark's past who may be tied, knowingly or not, into Mandarin's plans. One is Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), a comely botanist whose work, once the deadly kinks are worked out, could help repair severed limbs and other catastrophic injuries and the other is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a billionaire who runs the think tank where Maya works and who is using her research as the basis for Extremis, a program that seems altruistic enough on the surface but which has the potential to be horribly corrupted were it to fall into the wrong hands. I will leave it up to you to discover how all these details tie together but suffice it to say, when they do, it leads up to a grand finale featuring endless punches to the faces, several people dangling from high places by their fingertips and explosions a-plenty.

After directing the first two "Iron Man" films, Jon Favreau decided to step aside this time around (though he still appears on-screen as Stark's loyal security man Happy) and the job was given to Shane Black, who first made a name for himself by writing the screenplays to such hits as "Lethal Weapon" and "The Last Boy Scout" and later moved into the director's chair for the hilariously subversive action-comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," which gave Robert Downey Jr. one of the best roles of his entire career. Because on his hiring, I was a little more enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing "Iron Man 3" than I might have been under ordinary circumstances based on the theory that he might mess with the whole superhero formula in the same manner that he skewered action cinema conventions in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." Alas, that does not prove to be the case here. As a director, he keeps things moving along quickly enough and pulls off two impressive set-pieces--the attack on Tony's house and a seemingly impossible mid-air rescue--with a certain flair. For most of the rest of the time, however, the direction is pretty much by-the-book with nothing on display here that you couldn't see in any dozen other CGI-heavy extravaganzas and by the time it gets to the grand finale, it all pretty much devolves into chaos.

To be fair, Black has never directed anything on this scale before and I suppose he acquits himself adequately enough in what was essentially an extreme case of on-the-job training. However, he has certainly written films of this size before but the screenplay that he and co-writer Drew Pearce is also disappointingly conventional, even during the parts where it thinks that it is being more clever than it actually is. The plot is the usual nonsense but instead of goofing on the pretensions of the genre, Black & Pearce embrace them for the most part. In addition, the characters, save for Tony, are pretty much on the bland side, the motivations of the bad guys run the gamut from murky to impenetrable and the grand finale once again boils down to the sight of odd-looking people pounding the crap out of each other while things explode around them. They even take the one reliable element of the previous "Iron Man"-related films--Tony Stark hilarious verbal jousts with the likes of Pepper, Rhodes and loyal robot aide Jarvis (Paul Bettany) that often acknowledged the essential silliness of what was going on around them--and cast it aside by separating him from them for the long middle section and no, pairing him up with an adorably smart-assed little kid for most of that time, does not make up for that in the least. Stark does get a few bon mots to toss off here and there that are very funny and the secrets that are uncovered about Mandarin are intriguing but for too often, "Iron Man 3" has a decidedly ho-hum feel to it.

Not surprisingly, the best thing about "Iron Man 3" is the performance by Robert Downey Jr. in the central role. At this point, he is clearly coasting along almost on the basis of his personal charm and while that might be a problem in most cases, it is actually an asset in this case since the character he is playing is doing that very same thing as well. That said, he is one of those performers who can give a boost to weak material and when he does get a real zinger to work with, he knocks it out of the park with such ease. His efforts are so impressive that he pulls off the considerable feat of making the film seem more entertaining than it actually is for quite a while. The other MVP this time around is Ben Kingsley, who makes Mandarin into one of the more memorable super-villains of the recent spate of comic book movies. The other regulars basically go through their familiar paces, though it appears that Gwyneth Paltrow finally demanded to have her character something to do other than stand around while Stark does his schtick. As for the other central newcomers, neither one has much of anything to do with the proceedings but at least Rebecca Hall has the good graces to look absolutely smashing while not doing it.

"Iron Man 3" is not a particularly great movie and coming on the heels of the far more effective "The Avengers," it can't help but seem a bit lazy and uninspired by comparison. On the other hand, it is an improvement on the laziness that was "Iron Man 2," and Downey is as much of a hoot as ever. The end result is okay enough and while I cannot fully recommend it myself, my guess is that it will satisfy most moviegoers looking for an action-packed kickoff to the latest summer movie derby. However, it is the kind of blockbuster that one excitedly rushes out to see on its opening weekend only to barely remember anything about it a couple of months down the line.

And yes, there is a bonus scene following the end credits. Like the film as a whole, it is amusing enough but not exactly essential.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21704&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/02/13 11:47:47
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User Comments

6/26/18 morris campbell it sucks skip it 1 stars
10/01/14 Horror Lover Embarassing character devolpment for the Mandarin nearly ruins a good move. 3 stars
9/02/14 Jeff I liked it until the Mandarin thing 3 stars
5/15/14 SID RUMKOWSKI Average. Paltrow mutates into a twinkie in this one. 3 stars
1/26/14 Charles Tatum Another great entry in the series 4 stars
10/15/13 Carl Best of the Marvel Films to date. 5 stars
6/25/13 Jesse Zuno I've found the third installment enjoyable even if the logic in the film is too far fetched 4 stars
6/15/13 Lauren better than Iron Man 2 but still a bit lacking - 3 stars
6/05/13 mr.mike Nonsensical plot but Kingsley and the humor keep it afloat. 4 stars
5/26/13 jamiebraun my whole family LOVED this movie. 5 stars
5/26/13 Philip Love the action set-pieces but the story and villain are weak. 3 stars
5/20/13 kevin lause Pretty darn good for the first 90 minutes. Then it turns conventional. 4 stars
5/12/13 Gretchen Seitz Could've been fine but for Gwyneth Paltrow's be-a-heroine-just-by-being-annoying mode. 3 stars
5/08/13 allyson becker great movie. best one in series yet. Love it! 5 stars
5/07/13 action movie fan exciting somewhat interesting stoyr good action but a bit confusing 3 stars
5/07/13 gc Lame mandarain and pepper gets powers? True comic fans will hate this movie 2 stars
5/04/13 GLC Truly magnificent. Transcends the genre. 5 stars
5/04/13 KingNeutron Lots of good humor, but I really hated "Operation Clean Slate"- made NO sense 4 stars
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  03-May-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Sep-2013


  DVD: 24-Sep-2013

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