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Iron Man 3 by Shane Black (dir)/Shane Black & Drew Pearce (wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
Date: 05 May 2013

Links: IMDB record /

Tony Stark can't sleep. One of the smartest men in the world, a supergenius inventor who's a public superhero called Iron Man, cannot put the events of New York's alien invasion behind him. He has panic attacks and spends his sleepless nights building suits of armor.

But when a global terrorist--the Mandarin--starts to ratchet up his attacks, only Iron Man can take him down.

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is falling apart. His life seems to be ideal, living with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Malibu... but as he notes in a voiceover introduction, we all create our own demons. Tony invented his a dozen years ago, with a romantic dalliance involving genetic engineer Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and an incidental brush with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a near-cripplied scientist with a business proposition.

These chickens come home to roost in a very indirect way.

Grappling with his post-traumatic stress, wherein he has nightmares about falling through the wormhole into deep space and nearly dying (as seen in Marvel's The Avengers), Tony's world is rocked by an escalating series of explosions inside the U.S., with credit claimed by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).

Killian returns out of the blue to revisit Pepper and rekindle his business deal. He shows Pepper a hologram that describes his newest research project, Extremis, which has the potential to reconstruct even the most devastating injuries. Pepper is unpersuaded, noting how easily a discovery like that could be weaponized, and turns him down. Meanwhile, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), head of Stark security, does some amateur detective work and gets severely injured in an explosion at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Even so, he manages to leave Tony a clue.

Tony Stark vows revenge but then makes a vital connection to an event in Tennessee. When a visitor shows up on his doorstep to sound the alarm about Killian, it is only moments later that his home itself is destroyed by helicopter-launched rockets. As the mansion crumbles around Tony, he puts on a prototype suit and flies blind to Tennessee, where he has nothing but wrecked armor and everyone presuming he's dead.

Meanwhile, Iron Patriot/Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is scouring the world to find the Mandarin, but hits dead ends until coming across a deadly trap.

With the help of a boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins), Stark must rebuild his armor and take the fight to the Mandarin before his final, promised attack on the President of the United States (William Sadler). It's a tall order, even for a superhero, but there's nobody else who can do it. And even without his armor, Tony Stark is always Iron Man.

Directed by Shane Black, from a script by Black and Drew Pearce, Iron Man 3 does not try to go bigger than Avengers, which is smart-- it would be hard to outdo six major heroes for spectacle. Instead, it goes into what that event meant to Tony Stark and how he must rebuild himself in the aftermath. If the movie spends a lot less time with Tony in the armor, it makes those moments count, and amps up on the human side of that equation as well. Tony's deepest fears now center around his inability to protect Pepper from the chaos he realizes threatens the world; he cannot sleep but must build ever more elaborate armor in an effort to subdue his demons.

Killian, on the other hand, has an amazing discovery on his hands but needs to perfect it. This is at the heart of a mystery that unfolds over the course of the movie.

Downey has never been better as Stark, mixing arrogance and swagger with turbulent fears that erupt unexpectedly; his panic attacks are random but real, reducing Tony to a helpless wreck. Downey makes this development feel like an organic part of Stark's life, when this master of the world realizes how little he can control. Paltrow likewise has evolved over the course of several films from a high-level secretary/caretaker for Tony into a high-powered and dynamically capable woman (or perhaps Pepper has finally let herself shine through?) who is at least a match for Tony.

Pearce seems to be in his element as Killian, oozing smarm one moment and cold menace the next; he plays several roles skillfully, evolving himself from an ingratiating wannabe with a new foundation (Advanced Idea Mechanics) to a cool, well-dressed CEO with a world-shaking game plan. Likewise, Hall makes the most of her "one night stand" with Stark, as her life's work takes a major detour.

Fans and reviewers have already had a field day with the work of Sir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. His heavy, sonorous intonations in his TV hijack transmissions promise doom--and then he delivers-- and his ultimate confrontation with Tony is not to be missed.

Throw in a spectacular set-piece action finale for all the marbles, where dozens of suits of armor face off against a platoon of enhanced mercenaries, with Tony Stark alternately the cat and the mouse, and you have the makings of a true summer blockbuster--albeit one with a little more to say than "here are some explosions."


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