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Iron Man 3 Movie Review

Iron Man 3: Blu-ray + DVD combo pack cover art
Iron Man 3 is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray Disc.

Iron Man 3 (2013) movie poster Iron Man 3

Theatrical Release: May 3, 2013 / Running Time: 130 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Shane Black / Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black (screenplay); Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby (Marvel comic book)

Cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes), Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian), Rebecca Hall (Maya Hansen), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery/The Mandarin), James Badge Dale (Savin), Stephanie Szostak (Brandt), Paul Bettany (voice of Jarvis), William Sadler (President Ellis), Dale Dickey (Mrs. Davis), Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener), Miguel Ferrer (Vice President Rodriguez), Xueqi Wang (Doctor Wu), Shaun Toub (Ho Yinsen), Stan Lee (Paegant Judge), Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Bruce Banner - uncredited)

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Is the world prepared to go back to a movie with just one Marvel superhero after The Avengers assembled four of the biggest in one place? The answer seems to be a definite "yes" when the one superhero is the group's leader by box office receipts and entertainment value. In the ongoing boom of comic book films, Iron Man has trailed only Christian Bale's Batman and to a smaller degree Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man in commercial impact.
Everyone else, from the X-Men to the other Avengers, can only dream of the goodwill generated by Tony Stark, the sarcastic playboy, tycoon, and inventor who twice in the past five years has rung in the summer movie season to acclaim and robust ticket sales.

Critics and moviegoers seemed to prefer Iron Man (2008) to Iron Man 2 (2010) and all three of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies to either, but Iron Man 3 is sure to keep things positive for the franchise. Launching a stretch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe meaninglessly dubbed "Phase Two", this latest installment fulfills Robert Downey Jr.'s contractual obligations to what has become his signature role, but both Marvel Studios and the once-troubled indie wildcard would be crazy not to consider extending this solo franchise, with little at risk financially and artistically. So long as the public doesn't find an individual hero's adventure passé after last year's record-smashing dream team spectacle, there should be ample demand and adequate material to produce more films in which Iron Man doesn't have to share the spotlight with other heroes. Just in case things end here, though, the release at hand provides some closure and symmetry.

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Iron Man 3 opens in 1999, with Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" getting priceless, fitting, and prominent exposure. In the face of Y2K, Tony Stark is the carefree, self-centered bachelor we once knew. At a Swiss science convention, he relishes blowing off a nerdy admirer with bad skin (Guy Pearce) while preparing to bed a scientist (Rebecca Hall) working on a major botanical breakthrough. The episode, soon forgotten by Tony, comes back to haunt him in the present day, when the nerd is now a handsome and successful magnate who makes Stark's loyal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) weak in the knees. The one-night stand, who now works for the reformed nerd, shows up to warn of his dealings, but not soon enough to prevent the film's first big set piece, an attack on Stark's cliffside Malibu mansion/laboratory.

Meanwhile, America is being electronically terrorized by a Middle Eastern leader known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), whose sleekly-produced warnings interrupt regularly-scheduled programming across the board. America's response includes rebranding the armored alter ego of Iron Man friend Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) from War Machine to the Iron Patriot. But Mandarin promises an attack on the President of the United States by Christmas Day, which is fast approaching.

Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is surprised that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) has outgrown his awkward stage. Ben Kingsley plays the threatening broadcast-interrupting terrorist The Mandarin... sort of.

Christmas pervades this sequel, from colored lights and musical selections out in California to a snowy scene in rural Tennessee, where Stark goes to investigate an explosion site.

The holiday season is one of many flavorful touches that distinguish this episode and make it more accessible. Some moviegoers flock to superhero fare as pure escapism, to watch well-equipped heroes and multi-faceted villains, each larger than life, do battle without any real weight or relevance. That was much of the appeal of 1978's Superman, rightfully considered the birth of the modern day superhero film. But that doesn't cut it nowadays, not when Nolan injects Batman's vigilantism with rich social commentary and genre-bending designs.

Like its predecessors, Iron Man 3 takes a lighter approach. In fact for much of its runtime, it feels like a comedy first and foremost. Defying a much-recited quote, Downey makes comedy look easy, with his seemingly effortless charisma and impeccable timing. No other actor could so easily get away with belittling a young kid lamenting his paternal abandonment, but the actor gets some of the film's biggest laughs doing just that. In contrast to someone like Captain Jack Sparrow, this characterization hasn't yet gone stale. There are also compelling stake-raising threats yet to explore.

There are a number of references to The Avengers, with mere mention of New York sending Stark into newly-developed anxiety attacks. The Avengers themselves and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., however, do not crossover here, save for a nicely-done post-credits tag that reveals the target of the sporadic Stark narration that runs through the film. In some ways, IM3 is more purely entertaining than The Avengers, its expectations not as high, its opposition not as pressing, its screentime not so stretched thin. There isn't the sense of urgency or number of layers of Joss Whedon's highly-regarded blockbuster. There's mostly just Tony Stark, cracking wise and standing up to threats, including most extensively a race of regenerative, fire-breathing super soldiers powered by something called Extremis.

Tony Stark makes a friend in young Indianapolis boy Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) has his alter ego rebranded from War Machine to the Iron Patriot, per focus group findings.

Jon Favreau accepts a more prominent role in front of the camera as Stark Industries' annoying head of security, while handing over the directing reins to Lethal Weapon scribe and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang writer/director Shane Black, who also shares screenplay credit with rising Englishman Drew Pearce (the upcoming Pacific Rim and third Sherlock Holmes movie). Black and Pearce are comfortable with the universe and largely uninterested in looking back. Their film consistently entertains and its overlong climactic action even shows a little mercy and creativity.

This is the first Iron Man movie presented in 3D. Not shot that way but converted, I didn't notice any sign of the extra dimension in my screening, but the sturdy, film-specific limited edition glasses (collect all four!) are pretty cool.

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Related Reviews:
Iron Man • Iron Man: Rise of Technovore • Thor • Captain America: The First Avenger
Spider-Man • Spider-Man 2 • Spider-Man 3 • The Amazing Spider-Man • X-Men: First Class
Fantastic Four • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer • Ghost Rider • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Threequels: The Dark Knight Rises • Men in Black 3 • Toy Story 3 • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End • Shrek the Third
Robert Downey Jr.: Sherlock Holmes • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows • Due Date • Tropic Thunder
Gwyneth Paltrow: Contagion • The Royal Tenenbaums | Guy Pearce: Lawless • Animal Kingdom • Seeking Justice
Ben Kingsley: Hugo | Don Cheadle: Flight • Ocean's Thirteen | Rebecca Hall: Lay the Favorite • Please Give

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Reviewed May 3, 2013.



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