Movie Review: 'Iron Man 3' (2013)

The latest Iron Man film in the franchise finds our hero, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) after the events of The Avengers. As he "recovers" from PTSD by ignoring it, and getting back to business as usual. This includes trying to keep his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) intact and constructing an Iron Man army. Iron Man 3 is better than Iron Man 2, and not as good as the first.

Shane Black (The Long Kiss Goodnight) directing from his own script, does a brilliant job of bringing the franchise back to its roots, as the movie opens with a flashback to a 1999 Tony Stark. Black picks up on the humor that made the first Iron Man so energetic. His collaboration with Downey Jr. brings some definite synergy to the film, both having previously worked on the fantastic Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang together.

He shows trust in Downey Jr.’s vision of the character, he has developed to perfection, and Iron Man 2 heavily, and perhaps overly, relies on Downy Jr.'s limitless charisma. This is evident in the fact, the opening minutes of Iron Man 2 have Stark dismissing a crippled man, he cruelly leaves to suffer ringing in the New Year atop a freezing hotel rooftop. It is a scene that drastically damages any of the moral progress Stark has made in the franchise.

The scrip is sharp, the humor is punchy and the mystery story works. Black doesn’t rely on Transformer-style robot battles to carry the film. Instead, he leans on classic mystery storytelling throughout most of the movie. Having Stark encounter the average American makes for an interesting dynamic as he is thrust out of the bubble of his existence.

Iron Man 3 takes a couple of step backs, in terms of the evolution of the Tony Stark character. We know he is a tough nut to crack. A man who carries himself with a certain bluster and honesty that stings those around him, all the while seemingly indifferent to the discomfort he causes.

Having Stark ignore and simply be mean to a crippled Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) seems an out of character callousness for even Stark. While he hasn’t always been warm to everyone in the previous Iron Man films, he has dished it out to people he knows have a tough enough skin to handle it. Or to those who have justifiably provoked his wrath.

In all honestly, it left a bad impression that remained for the entire movie. Pearce’s performance as he checks his watch in anticipation for Stark to arrive is super effective and because he is so good, it makes the way Stark treats him feel like an even bigger punch in the face.

There were redemptive personal moments afterwards as Tony's relationship with a kid worked to bolster his morality, quite nicely. It is always a risk to put kids in these types of movies and for once, it worked out.

Why they set Iron Man 3 at Christmastime, when it is a summer blockbuster is confusing. They constantly remind us of the time of year and while, most of the country is adjusting to warm temperatures, a portion of the movie takes place in the snow. It hurts the mood of the film, and the ability to climb in for future viewings.

There are also huge plot holes within regards to Stark inviting the Mandarin to his home. Why doesn't Stark have any protection at his home, in the event the Mandarin actually took him up on his offer?

It could be explained away that Stark is so arrogant in his opinion that the Mandarin is a coward that it causes him not to take the proper precautions. However, it is hurdle Iron Man 3 would have done better to explain,

Since he is Tony Stark, he should have already had security made for any potential threats, years ago. The bottom line is that with a character as ingenious as Stark, he shouldn't be defeated, or outsmarted by another villain.

The Tony Stark from the first film is too impenetrable to make the blunders required for a villain to succeed over him, make any sense. It leaves one to wonder if to remain true to the character, you can even make a sequel. It has to be a plot driven device that is too abstract for one to conceive that Stark cannot foresee it.

After years of hearing about his presence being included in one of the Iron Man movies, it is a huge letdown to see the much talked about Mandarin character reduced to a farce. The goals of the true villain were left murky, and practically indeterminable.

While many people have compared Iron Man 3 to last summer’s The Dark Knight Rises, personally speaking, there are not enough similarities to warrant it. The thing with Nolan’s vision is that he had a beginning, middle, and end to his story. Marvel Studios does not seem as interested in telling a similarly creative story.

They just want to make another Marvel movie, and have no interest in making coherently connected films. It would be nice to have an umbrella storyline that ties all 3 movies together, and is resolved bit by bit in each movie, The introduction of yet another Avenger is not going to cut it.

Robert Downey Jr.'s turn as Tony Stark is more than him performing a character. He has crafted one. Tony Stark being brought to life, on screen, could have never been achieved to the capacity it has been without Downy Jr. He has created something magical with his characterization.

The fast-talk musings, comedic timing, and dramatic depths of Stark have been explored in a refreshing performance that only a true movie star is capable of. He isn’t playing an ordinary hero. He is playing an extraordinary man who happens to be one.

Guy Pearce is heartbreaking in the opening minutes of the film, and shows his range by settling into the villainous aftermath of his character’s ambition. Pearce's career has been unique, and as always he proves his skill at playing both villains, and heroes with ample success.

As his Iron Man 3 character is a mix of both, he gets a chance to shine on a broader stage than most of his performances get to be seen. He is definitely one of the more underrated actors working right now. Hopefully, this movie will boost his profile, and visibility in other fare.

Ben Kingsley is marvelous and gets to have a bit more fun here, than in his typically dour roles in more serious works. Don Cheadle does well as Rhodes with what he is given. His comedic repartee with RDJ is, as always, a treat to watch.

Elsewhere, Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen) is miscast as the former botanist lover of Stark. Hall seems to be on the brink of doing something bold in the part, only to hold back for some unknown reason. The result is another whiny woman in the Marvel universe.

Jon Favreau is a scene-stealer whenever Happy Hogan is featured, and his character is the appropriate choice to be the personal stake that compels Stark’s involvement in the Mandarin storyline.

The thing about Iron Man 3 is that it is a fun movie to watch. It is a great popcorn flick, and it is always exciting to catch up with Tony Stark - one of the most entertaining superheroes movies have, or will ever see. Rating: 7.7/10