5/9/2013 - Robert Downey Jr. puts on the suit for another round of quips and fighting bad guys in Iron Man 3, a totally fine, completely acceptable start to the summer popcorn season.
Tony Stark (Downey) is having a hard time dealing with the events of The Avengers, particularly the part where he briefly went through a wormhole and almost died. He can’t sleep and spends his nights building newer whiz-bangier Iron Man suits and not sharing his feelings with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his live-in gal. Even the arrival of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist who used to have a crush on Pepper, who dazzles her with his latest inventions and his improved appearance, can’t get Tony to concentrate more on the world around him than his own head.
Of course, there’s nothing to shake a man out of his funk and get him to slide his occasional anxiety attacks aside like a terrorist. The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) looks like a cross between Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden. After bombing American interests abroad and cities here in the homeland, he goes on TV — via that standard supervillian means of communication that is “hacking into the broadcast” — and issues vague threats to the American government. Tony, and therefore Iron Man, gets involved after one such bombing hurts Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), Tony’s buddy and head of Stark Industries security. Come and get me, Tony says, and The Mandarin responds by sending helicopters to blow up Stark’s hilltop mansion.
Pepper and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), a scientist who had come to warn Tony about the Mandarin, escape, but Tony is believed to have been killed. Of course, he hasn’t been; he instead winds up in Tennessee, following up a lead that might help him understand the Mandarin’s origins. With nothing but one broken suit, Tony winds up in a kid’s workshed trying to MacGyver together his Iron Man suit and solve the puzzle of just who the Mandarin is and what he wants.
These scenes, where Tony — minus money and friends — is trying to figure out what his next move is with the help of a wise-cracking kid (Ty Simpkins), offer some of the movie’s better moments. A close second would be scenes between Tony and Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle), a more by-the-book Iron-Man-like suit-wearing warrior. (The movie has particular fun with how Rhodes’ suit, called War Machine, is rebranded Iron Patriot after one of the Mandarin’s attacks.) They highlight what has always been best about this franchise: Downey and his ability to be flip, dark and genuine all in the same moment. Whether it’s here or Sherlock Holmes, Downey is the draw — he brings liveliness to his characters and helps to get you to forgive the movie its flaws.
Here, the flaws are not necessarily mistakes the movie makes but innovations the movie doesn’t make. Iron Man 3 is totally fine — a phrase you are unlikely to see on a movie poster. But it is, it’s OK, it’s not a waste of time and probably not a waste of money, at least if you see it in two-dimension (as I did; in 3-D, well, is any 3-D movie worth the extra money?). It gives you big CGI explosions and moments of humor and enough tie-ins to the previous Iron Mans as well as to The Avengers to keep continuity nuts reasonably happy. It just doesn’t do anything new or exciting or unexpected. It hums along, a reliable automobile that gets decent gas mileage but it doesn’t thrill you. There is one nice twist, a few expected “twists” and just enough puffery to make me wish someone had shaved the movie down 25 minutes. (Making these extravaganzas more than two hours long does not make me more likely to feel good about the $15 3-D IMAX ticket price.)
Were anybody else in the lead, Iron Man 3 would be on shakier ground, another extension of the Marvel universe that is starting to feel more Helper than Hamburger. But with Downey, Iron Man 3 is watchable entertainment that I was happy to sit through even if I’m not itching to sit through it again. B
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content. Directed by Shane Black and written by Black and Drew Pearce based on the Marvel comic book, Iron Man 3 is two hours and 10 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures.