By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s no rust on Iron Man (a steel at any price!)
And the iconic character is back as the high-quality, high-profile Iron Man franchise puts the pedal to the metal for a third installment, another high-energy escapist fantasy that kicks off the summer movie season in high style.
Iron Man 2 (2010), although at least serviceable, was bigger but not better than the 2008 original, not quite matching its impact or memorability. Iron Man 3, on the other hand, irons out some of the limitations of the first sequel and returns the franchise to the form of the original.
Robert Downey Jr. also returns for a third time (actually a fourth time, because his character was a member of the superhero six-pack in the ensemble epic The Avengers) as billionaire inventor Tony Stark, plagued with frequent panic attacks but justly proud of his collection of armor suits that can be remotely controlled and summoned to attach to his body.
The terrorist mastermind he faces this time is the indelibly maniacal and ruthless Mandarin, played commandingly by Ben Kingsley, who wages war on America with bombings that draw the desperate attention of the US president.
Once again, good battles evil, and themes such as integrity, redemption, and the war on terror are explored without being heavyhanded about it.
Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, starring Downey, and the screenplay for Lethal Weapon) takes over directing duties from Jon Favreau, and his CGI-heavy superhero flick, which he co-wrote with Drew Pearce, offers legitimately clever dialogue and truly dazzling special effects while managing to defy at least some of our generic expectations with at least one surprising and intriguing twist while providing plenty of spectacle in a way that’s exciting, clever, and funny.
Not a bad trifecta.
Black demonstrates a marked improvement in only his second time at the helm in almost every conceivable way when compared to his first directorial outing in 2005, the too-cool-for-the-room quirkfest Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. As moviemakers go, there’s quite the impressive learning curve on display.
Downey, a master of sardonic quips as the wealthy world savior, is once again both charismatic and slyly funny. This time there’s an additional layer of vulnerability to his subtly calibrated performance, and he’s ably supported by Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s girlfriend, Pepper Potts, much more part of the action this trip; Don Cheadle as Colonel Rhodes, Stark’s best bud and fellow superhero, Iron Patriot; Guy Pearce as secondary, revenge-seeking villain Aldrich Killian; Favreau, director of the first two installments and one of the film’s executive producers, as Stark’s security chief, Happy Hogan; Rebecca Hall as Stark’s scientist ex; and Ty Simpkins as a precocious small-town fatherless boy whom Stark befriends.
Iron Man 3 is a threequel and, in a way, a double-sequel -– to Iron Man and The Avengers -– and it more than holds its own as an extension of the Marvel Comics mythology, offering not only action and suspense in the comic book universe in which it dwells but an exhilarating blend of gravity and levity in which the dialogue is as lively as the action, even if there is more action than the film needs or we want.
So we’ll iron out 3 stars out of 4 for the spirited and marvelously Marvelous Iron Man 3. Downey’s adroit turn as armored avenger Tony Stark suggests an alternate title: “The Stark Knight Rises.”