Friday, May 10, 2013

Iron Man 3

Directed by Shane Black.
2013. Rated PG-13, 130 minutes.
Stephanie Szostak
Ty Simpkins
Miguel Ferrer

Dealing with the events of The Avengers is taking a heavy toll on Tony Stark (Downey Jr.). He suffers from anxiety attacks, can’t sleep and spends most of his time designing and assembling various Iron Man suits with differing properties and capabilities. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is at the mercy of a ruthless terrorist known as The Mandarin (Kingsley). To deal with this menace, President Ellis (Sadler) dispatches Tony’s bestest buddy Col. Rhodes (Cheadle). He wears one of Tony’s suits that’s been painted red, white and blue and dubbed “The Iron Patriot.” After a Mandarin bomb goes off that puts Happy (Favreau), another of Tony’s buds, into a coma our hero decides to get involved.

To me, the reason this franchise is so successful is not that Iron Man and his world saving exploits are so great. It’s that Tony Stark, as portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. is endlessly compelling. It’s a perfect match of actor and character coming together to form an individual you can’t take your eyes off. This, his fourth outing as the billionaire media-darling turned superhero, is no different. With Stark’s wealth and vigilantism fueled not only by the crime committed against him, but other deep-seated issues, the obvious comparison is with Bruce Wayne, particularly as played by Christian Bale in the recently concluded Dark Knight Trilogy. The difference being that Bruce broods and sulks as if two seconds from slitting his own wrists and downing a bottle of sleeping pills while Tony is an outgoing and likeable extrovert even though his air of superiority is readily apparent. When the anxiety attacks begin, he’s truly taken aback. They’re chipping away at his real armor, his supreme confidence, not to mention what it’s doing to his relationship with Pepper (Paltrow). For a man such as he, this is a devastating development. The scenes of Tony trying to come to grips with these most recent traumatic events and a future possibly more uncertain than when he made his first Iron Man suit are the best in the movie. He connects with us and somehow, through all the tragedy and difficulties of his present, he still makes us laugh.

Don’t worry, even though there are plenty of opportunities for us to practice armchair psychology, this is no artsy character study. There is lots of action. It’s all pretty well done, but the most spectacular sequence, for my money, is the “barrel of monkeys” scene. All I have to say is 13 civilians falling from a plane and just one Iron Man. Later, the scene I suspect most of you will point to as the most exciting is the finale involving more Iron Man suits than you can count. This works OK, but is a bit too cluttered and repetitive for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, it provides some great visuals and thrills. It’s just a little too much.

Where Iron Man 3 threatens to lose us is with a bunch of small but easily noticeable problems that snowball into an issue that hangs over the movie in a bad way. They stretch our suspension of belief beyond even what's expected of a superhero flick by either dispensing too much information, or none at all. In the too much department, we know how far something has to travel to save Tony’s butt. To say it gets there fast is an understatement of epic proportions  It could only have gotten there sooner if Superman reversed the Earth’s rotation. On the other hand, we get no information, other than relying on our own knowledge of Tony’s genius, on how this rescue is even remotely possible considering a trip to Home Depot features prominently in this occurrence. Most troublesome is how his computer Jarvis (Bettany) is still able to help remains a mystery. And just where does the Audi come from? I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say these annoyances take me out of the movie a little at a time.

In the end, it’s a testament to a character we've become vested in through several movies that its problems don’t overwhelm IM3. I hate to keep bringing up Batman, but it’s similar to The Dark Knight Rises in that things people would normally destroy a movie for will be dismissed as non-issues due to their love of the hero and his franchise. I've no issue with this other than to say it’s a pretty good movie but hardly a great one.

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