Iron Man 3
He’s Back on His Own

Iron Man 3 kicks off what Marvel Studios has dubbed Phase 2 of their superhero series after Phase 1 successfully concluded with last years The Avengers.  It is fitting that Phase 2 should kick off with a new Iron Man movie since it was the 2008 original that first kicked off the series.  Jon Favreau, the director of the first two films, takes a back seat here as a supporting player and hands over the reins to writer/director Shane Black.  Black previously worked with star Robert Downey Jr. on 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and he puts his stamp on the franchise early as Downey opens the film with a voiceover narration that sounds suspiciously similar to the one from their previous film together.

As Tony Stark, Downey tells us that everything has changed since the events of The Avengers, but that the story of his latest chapter actually began in 1999 on the eve of the new millennium.  At a technology convention/New Year’s Eve party, Tony unwittingly makes two enemies that will come back to haunt him year’s later.  Flash forward to present day and you have got an anxiety-riddled Tony Stark, still spooked by his encounters with aliens and his brief adventure into space at the end of The Avengers.  Unable to sleep, he now spends all of his time in his lab tinkering with many different iterations of his Iron Man suit.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3Meanwhile, a terrorist calling himself the Mandarin is terrorizing the nation and threatening the President.  After Tony personally challenges his country’s enemy through the press, Stark manor is destroyed and everyone’s favorite billionaire playboy philanthropist is stranded and helpless…at first.  With the help of a bullied young boy, Tony rediscovers his love for science and building things and returns to face his enemy.  Only, his enemy turns out to be something possibly even more terrifying than he first believed.

One of the problems now faced by Marvel Studios in the wake of the success of The Avengers bringing all of their superheroes together, is how do they return to their own worlds as if the others don’t exist?  It can easily be explained that Thor has returned to his own world while Hulk is probably back in hiding in some third world country, but with America and its President threatened in Iron Man 3, one has to wonder: where is Captain America?  The movie doesn’t even try to explain it and that just becomes one of those disbeliefs audiences will need to suspend; much like how the Secret Service will let someone wearing a mask and helmet just wander aboard Air Force One without question.

As long as you are able to suspend those disbeliefs, you will probably find Iron Man 3 to be an entertainment that compares with its two predecessors.  Robert Downey Jr. is again the perfect Tony Stark and his one-line quips will keep you laughing, even as they seem to get meaner and meaner.  There is a lot of humor in this movie, which is a good thing, but it does come at the expense of some lag time, especially in the film’s mid-section.  The special effects are again terrifically done—even if the 3D effects do little to help show them off—and the action is entertaining—even though it felt like we could use a little more action that actually involves the title character.

The villain this time around is the Mandarin, who is one of the best known of Iron Man’s villains from the comics.  He was even referred to in the first movie, as the terrorists who held Tony Stark captive called themselves the Ten Rings, which is known to be led by the Mandarin.  Fans of the comics might be in for a shock, however, as Black and company do a lot of character reinventing.  The truth about the Mandarin is the movie’s big plot twist and although I don’t dare reveal it, I will say that Ben Kingsley’s performance is never better than immediately after we learn his secret.

The movie is the longest in the Iron Man series to date, but it never really felt like it.  The pacing may be lopsided at times, but overall the movie moves along at a good pace.  The addition of the voiceover narration seems unnecessary and distracting; that is, until it is humorously explained in the film’s must-see post-credits scene.

The movie’s unexpected ending is intriguing as to how the Iron Man character will be used in future Marvel movies and we should learn more about Phase 2 when Thor 2 hits theaters later this year.

Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.”  There’s some dismembered body parts in this movie, but other than that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t have found in the earlier movies.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Iron Man 3.