Iron Man 3

By Ronald Duvall

The best thing to be said about “Iron Man 3” is that it avoids successfully the fate of many Hollywood franchises whose third chapter is the weakest, or does not measure up to the former ones.


In the eagerly-awaited third installment, the titular character and the star playing him, Robert Downey Jr., return invigorated, ready to face their global fans and deliver the goods expected of them—-with vengeance.

“Iron Man 3” is a spectacle designed to display how the uniquely American combination of brain, brawn, science, wealth, and charisma can solve the country’s problems, including fight against terrorism.

Iron Man
“Iron Man” was released in the U.S. April 14, 2008, grossed $318 million and was embraced by most critics (94 percent of reviews were positive)

Iron Man 2
“Iron Man 2,” which opened domestically on May 7, 2010, grossed $312 million and has critical approval rate of 73 percent.

While not necessarily the best chapter, “Iron Man 3” is certainly the most broadly entertaining, in large measure due to the new filmmaker assigned to the series, Shane Black, who does double duty as director and co-writer (Black first impressed as scribe of “Lethal Weapon”).

The witty neo-noir “Kiss Kiss Ban Bang,” Black’s previous effort and his directing debut, also starred Downey Jr, (in a comeback performance after wide publicity of his drug abuse). World-premiering at the 2005 Cannes Film Fest, this movie somehow never reached the public it deserved. (Why did it take him so long to make a second movie?)

Investing “Iron Man 3” with an extra shot of energy, irreverent (off the wall) humor, at least three or four thrilling set-pieces, and slick production values, Black shows he could become a major player in the New Hollywood.

The franchise has already amassed $1.2 billion, and Disney, which is releasing the film, should get strong returns. “Iron Man 3” may prove to be even more commercial than the previous two. (The first two “Iron Man” movies were handled by Paramount).

As co-writer and helmer, Black must have studied thoroughly the previous “Iron Man” (and “The Avengers”) for he imbues the saga with more twists than is usually the norm for such fare, easily relatable villains that justify the labels of their roles, and above all, an offbeat tone. End result is a picture that young and indiscriminating viewers may take seriously, while older and savvier spectators would see as a tongue-in-cheek, deliberately movieish adventure.

Benefiting from a shrewd marketing campaign and an extensive publicity tour around the globe, Iron Man, which opens in the U.K. a week before its U.S. bow (on May 3), “Iron Man 3” could—and should—be enjoyed by all members of the family.

As an actor, Downey Jr. has always been good with rapid-fire dialogue and witty one-liners, which he delivered in a satirical and excessive mode, sort of winking at the audience (and at himself), but without condescension to his fan base and without putting down the original material, which had always been cartoonish.

Black plays well with the structural device of the double, or doubling (which characterized many of Hitchcock’s greatest picture). In this saga, there is, of course, Tony Stark/Iron Man, but the good actor Don Cheadle is well cast as Colonel Rhodes/War Machine.

This segment may have also profited from the fact that Black’s co-scribe, Drew Pearce, brings a fresher perspective to the cartoonish material, perhaps because he is a first timer.

In the prologue, set in Switzerland, Tony spends New Year’s Eve of 1999 with Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall in an offbeat turn), a sultry scientist. While there, he has to deal with a mysterious scientist-colleague Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

Cut to the present time and the lavish Malibu house, where Stark lives with his love interest, Pepper Potts (the beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her role), who is running the Stark Industries with firm hand.

Initially, he feels insecure (subject to insomnia and all kind of anxiety attacks) and redundant now the government has their own “Ïron Patriot.”

There are threats and bombings all over, orchestrated by a terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an ultra-bright man who understands how to manipulate the world is via the Internet’s new technologies and new media.

Killian, like the other characters, also has a second identity. Sporting a new, dashing look, he approaches Pepper with a novel if risky scientific idea, Extremis, a mind-projection operation, but she rejects it outright.

The movie’s most unsettling (and timely) scene occurs at the legendary Chinese Theater in Hollywood, which is attacked by the most peculiar individuals—their eyes glow, their bodies begin to heat and then they explode. It’s impossible to watch this scene without thinking about the recent terrorists’ attacks in Boston. Among the many injured is Stark’s security chief (played by Jon Favreau, who had directed the first two “Iron Man”).

Tony immediately makes a link between the Chinese incident, which seemed to be a bombing, and a recent case in Tennessee. Stark then reappears in Tennessee, assisted by an orphan child (Ty Simpkins). Before long, Stark’s own house is assaulted by a helicopter, and there are other red-hot Extremisites.

In this chapter, Stark spend most of the time out of his Iron Man suit, which allows Downey to act more freely. Looking younger and more vibrant than the usual, Downey dominates the film with his commanding performance. This is not to say that Downey Jr. is not convinced when he is fully suited and booted.

Reprising her role as Pepper, Paltrow, though looking gorgeous, has a small, limited part. Sadly, she has become too serious, increasingly irrelevant, and her complaints about Tony’s lack of attention get tiresome. Pearce shines in his double role. Ben Kingsley, heavily adorned and made-up, makes the most out of playing the villain, even if his interpretation is too theatrical–just watch the glint in his own eyes.

Cinematographer John Toll, one of the few artists to have won two consecutive Oscars (for “Legend of the Fall” in 1994 and for “Braveheart” in 1995) gives the film a lavishly seductively look.

Black and Pearce seem to have had as much fun constructing and executing their tale as the fun that most viewers would have.

If memory serves, Tony Stark had been educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), which unintentionally provides yet another allusion to the Boston Marathon bombings.

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 130 MIN.

A Disney release of a Marvel Studios production.
Produced by Kevin Fiege.
Executive producers, Jon Favreau, Louis D’Esposito, Charles Newirth, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dan Mintz.
Directed by Shane Black.
Screenplay, Drew Pearce, Black, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Bill Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby.
Camera, John Toll.
Editors, Peter Ford, Jeffrey S. Elliot.
Music, Brian Tyler.
Production designer, Bill Brzeski.
Art director, Brian Stultz; set decorator, Danielle Berman. Costume designer, Louise Frogley.
Sound, Jose Antonio Garcia, Peter Devlin.


Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Broussard, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany.

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