Iron Man 3
No actor has brought a superhero to life like Robert Downey Jr.
That's not to take anything away from Christopher Reeve's Superman, Christian Bale's Batman or Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. But Downey deserves extra credit for transforming arrogant billionaire Tony Stark into a likable everyman. In fact, much of Marvel Studios' recent big-screen success can be traced directly to Downey's crowd-pleasing turn in the first "Iron Man" (2008).
This ambitious third installment in the "Iron Man" franchise offers Downey another opportunity to shine. He continues to add layers to an already complex character and infuse the often somber genre with comedic charm (this is a comic-book movie, after all). Despite a somewhat slow start and occasional plot missteps, "Iron Man 3" ultimately soars thanks to its charismatic leading man and director Shane Black's man-on-wire balancing act of humor and action.
After helping defend Earth from a horde of alien invaders and nearly dying in the process (as seen in 2012's "The Avengers"), Tony Stark is content tinkering in his Malibu mansion and sharing a bed with his girlfriend/personal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). But he's quickly reminded of the pitfalls of being a high-profile superhero with the introduction of two new adversaries: Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a fellow tech genius and founder of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics); and a shadowy Osama bin Laden-esque terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
The Mandarin serves up ominous threats while Killian's machinations include the use of "Extremis," a dangerous new technology. Meanwhile, Tony begins to suffer anxiety attacks based on his near-death experience in New York. Tony's mettle is quickly tested when a brazen attack with ties to "Extremis" leaves one of his closest friends clinging to life. As the conflict escalates, others are thrown in harm's way, including Pepper and U.S. President Ellis (William Sadler).
The visual effects and action sequences are stunning, especially when Tony's Iron Man armor(s) take flight. The costuming, however, is more hit-and-miss. In one scene, Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, reprising his role from "Iron Man 2") emerges from his "Iron Patriot" armor wearing a polo shirt and blue jeans -- not exactly the sort of attire one would generally wear when strapped into a mechanical suit for hours on end. Then again, The Mandarin, with his ringed fingers and muted green garb, looks terrific.
A nice surprise in "Iron Man 3" is the way the character of Pepper Potts is developed. Not only does Paltrow deliver a wonderful performance, but Pepper proves increasingly strong and resilient. Pearce is also a welcome addition to the cast with his blend of sleaze and toughness. And Kingsley demonstrates his thespian skills yet again as the enigmatic Mandarin.
Iron Man, with Downey playing pilot, continues to launch Marvel into the cinematic stratosphere.
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action/violence and brief suggestive content. 2 hours, 20 minutes.
- Tyler Hanley