‘Iron Man 3’ an absolute blast
It can be a double-edged sword when your lead is as charismatic as Robert Downey Jr.
On one hand, you may end up focusing so much on the lead you forget about the rest of the movie. But on the flip side, and in “Iron Man 3’s” case, you become even more engrossed in the story, more attached to the characters and their plights, struggles and victories. Because more than anything else, “Iron Man 3” centers around struggle and the sometimes mountainous climb it takes to overcome it.
Taking place not long after his extraterrestrial escapades with the Avengers (you can read a review of “The Avengers” here), billionaire superhero Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) seems to be at a crossroads with his own narcissism: He knows exactly who he is, but he now unsure if that is who he wants to be. He alludes to the events in New York, saying he may have been more affected than previously stated. Understandable, of course, but the trauma he sustained is beginning to take a toll.
These days, instead of running his company from the heights of Stark Tower, he tinkers in his Malibu beachside basement — a basement most engineers and mechanics would kill for, but a dark basement nonetheless. He builds his robots, verbally spars with AI Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) and does his best to alleviate the worries of his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who now is running Stark Industries.
Also at Stark HQ this time around is Happy (Jon Favreau), now head of security for the corporation. He’s a bit overzealous, but it’s humorous to see the director of the previous two movies return to his antics. (Beware: He may demand to see your ID badge.) Don Cheadle also returns in his role as Col. James Rhodes, more affectionately known as Rhodey. He commands the Iron Patriot machine, which may have been rebranded by the government because War Machine isn’t very PR friendly.
The multi-focus plot, directed by Shane Black, finds its center when Stark, after some serious carnage at his home, finds himself needing the help of 8-year-old Harley (Ty Simpkins). The two bond, with Harley being snarky and Stark being slightly inappropriate with his humor. It’s a nimble balancing act between the two, one that makes you smiles when you realize how well they nail it.
But another major plot arc involves Tony’s pasts; more specifically, his past arrogance and his I-saved-the-world past. The former sends us back to 1999, where Stark is equally charming genetic researcher Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and dismissing a less-than-attractive entrepreneur, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). The main lesson here is that the past has a tendency to resurface at the most inopportune times. For Stark, the timing is as perfectly inopportune as possible because his past slights not only affect his present, but the nation’s as well.
The moral arc (because this is a superhero movie, and it wouldn’t be complete without an identity crisis at some point) deals with karmic justice, retribution and the ambiguity of what terrorism really is and how we deal with it. It starts with a mysterious, but deadly, explosion outside the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The attack happens to injure Happy, giving us a personal connection to the attacks, which have been numerous and widespread.
A man called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) takes credit for the terrorism, and says he has a principal lesson for America to learn. He broadcasts his message everywhere (thanks to some intense hacking skills) to further increase distress and anxiety. There’s also weaponized soldiers running rampant, juiced up on a virus called Extremis, which genetically alters and repairs once-disfigured soldiers. With the recent terror events, it seems a bit off-putting, but the plot holds well enough together.
Tony and Pepper’s relationship still is as snappy and charming as ever. And there are some surprisingly twists scattered throughout, normally bringing us full circle and sometimes conveying larger messages.
But in the end, “Iron Man 3’s” story might be as simple as a man growing up and learning about himself. It’ll be exciting to see where this takes Stark (and the Iron Man universe in general) in the future.
And as a side note, you should wait to leave until after the credits have rolled. As is typical for Marvel movies, an amusing scene awaits you for your trouble.
Four world-saving stars out of five.