Along with Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Iron Man 3” is one of the rare superhero threequels that doesn’t disappoint. While Jon Favreau remains an executive producer and co-star, he passes on the directorial duties to Shane Black of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Black maintains all the action, humor, and character development that made Faverau’s first two films so enjoyable, while also incorporating his own unique signature. His film continues to raise the stakes and pushes its characters to their critical limits. In addition, “Iron Man 3” makes some hilarious commentary on the media’s role in terrorism with several inspired twist. The result is the darkest of the “Iron Man” trilogy and, ironically, the funniest.
Robert Downey Jr. is stronger than ever as Tony Stark, who has reached his breaking point after the events that took place in “The Avengers.” Unable to sleep or confide in the ones he loves most, he engulfs himself in his work. Meanwhile, an Osama bin Laden-like terrorist known as the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, is threatening the President of the United States. Kind of ironic Kingsley would go from playing Gandhi to playing the face of terror. Having a death wish, Stark makes it publicly known that he doesn’t fear the Mandarin and is prepared to take him down. The Mandarin instantly targets Stark and his iron army, resulting in all out mechanical war.
After portraying this character in four movies, it feels pointless to sing Downey Jr. any more praise. He’s so convincing as this emotionally tortured, quick-witted, iconic hero that the audience doesn’t even care that we see more of Tony Stark than Iron Man this time around. Just as crucial to the film is Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, who in many respects saves the man she loves more than he saves her. There’s also the always-welcome bromance between Stark and Don Cheadle’s Rhodey, who has now dawned the alter ego of Iron Patriot, aka War Machine. Even Jarvis, Stark’s artificial intelligence buddy voiced by Paul Bettany, develops into a really fun character this time around. All of these supporting players act as Stark’s backbone, preventing him from completely losing his sanity.
The film introduces a few new characters that are hit and miss, such as a little kid played by Ty Simpkins that befriends Stark. Typically whenever superheroes get a younger sidekick, it can be really charming or out of place. Here, it’s a little bit of both. To the kid’s credit, he does help Iron Man out of several jams and delivers a couple solid one-liners. Rebecca Hall is fine as a one-night stand from Stark’s past, but is somewhat under utilized. What “Iron Man 3” really excels in, though, is the villain department. Where the baddies in the first two films were pretty forgettable compared to the Joker or Bane, Tony Stark really meets his match here. In addition to Kingsley’s scene-stealing work, Guy Pearce is perfectly menacing as a scientist whose latest experiment appears promising on the outside but has catastrophic results.
If you’re looking for a summer movie as big and epic as “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3” might be a slight disappointment in your eyes. Don’t get me wrong; the film is still full of jaw-dropping special effects and action sequences, most notably a seamless airborne rescue. When stacked up against something as bombastic as the “The Avengers,” though, “Iron Man 3” actually comes off as much smaller. This actually works to the film’s advantage, however, providing a more intimate, personal character study of Tony Stark.
Although the post-credits scene states Tony Stark will return, there have been rumors that this will be the last time we see Downey Jr. in the role. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean Marvel may consider replacing Downey Jr. Iron Man isn’t like the Hulk, who has gone through three different actors in the Marvel movie cannon. Downey Jr. is Iron Man and it’s impossible to imagine another other actor in the role.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.