Iron Man 3: Is It More Than a Man in A Tin Can?

by Sandra Olmsted

In the new installment of the Marvel franchise, questions of whether Iron Man aka Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is anything without his suit and of whether the Iron Man franchise has become a moneymaking shell of its former self has also been raised.

In many ways a sequel to both Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, Iron Man 3 benefits from co-writer and director Shane Black being a new director to the franchise. Plus he has his experience and talent as an A-list screenwriter, known for Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which marked an acting comeback for Downey. The film feels like two friends are having a grand time behind the scenes, and it infuses the film with a liveliness and helps Iron Man 3 avoid some of the pitfalls of sequels.

While Black and his co-screenwriter, first-timer Drew Pearce, give Downey delightfully fun quips and zingers, they, unfortunately, switch up the franchise’s formula a little too much by limiting Tony’s/Iron Man’s contact with his favorite verbal sparring partners, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and Jarvis the ultra-computer (voice of Paul Bettany). Substituting for Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man installments, Black also skips Favreau’s near homage to Ray Harryhausen’s visual effects. However, the powerhouse production’s incredible computer-generated effects, zippy pace, and dramatic subtext dealing with drug addiction and suicidal depression distracts the viewer from the film’s flaws.

In Iron Man 3, opening the tin can of Iron man’s suit and revealing the man inside drives the story. After a flashback to 1999 Switzerland and a one-night stand with Maya (Rebecca Hall), an experimental botanist, and some meetings with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), her benefactor, whose interest is, or soon will be, hacking DNA to cure disease and to regrow limbs,  the story skips to modern day.

While Tony stays in his Malibu mansion suffering anxiety attacks and sleeplessness, Pepper runs Stark Industries. When Killian pitches Pepper his pet DNA-altering project, Extremis, she rejects his proposal because Killian’s technology could too easily be weaponized. Since mad scientists should never be crossed, Killian sets out to make Pepper regret her decision by turning test subjects into human bombs.

Meanwhile, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a classic villain from the Marvel vault, is behind worldwide bombings, broadcast and internet interruptions, and threats against US President Ellis (William Sadler), but Tony is too busy wallowing in his own depression to take any notice until the Iron Patriot aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) is put out of commission. Even when Tony steps up to the plate, he spend less time in the suit, and after his home and lab are destroyed and his friends and loved ones separated from him, he must use his wits and ingenuity to save the day.

The attacks and fight scenes are epic in scale, destruction, and gore, but virtually bloodless, which probably accounts for the films PG-13 rating. Some events, however, may strike a little too close to home so soon after the Boston bombings because some amputees are mutated into human bombs against their will.   Presumed dead after the attack on his home, Tony shows up at the site of one such bombing in Tennessee, where a soldier exploded while being given the drug.

All the other test subjects were killed, leaving scorch marks, similar to those at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing sites. Tony then meets Harley (Ty Simpkins), an orphan, who helps Tony connect the bombings, threats, and attacks; however, Tony reveals a darker side when he uses the kid and then rejects him. Another exciting sequence has Air Force One under attack, and Tony suited up as Iron Man making an aerial rescue of some of those on board. As with all Marvel films, after the nearly ten minutes of credits, there’s a snippet of footage which usually foreshadows the next installment, but, in this case, also reveals a bit of information that changes the film’s meaning!

A joint production of the Disney-owned Marvel Pictures and Beijing-based DMG Entertainment, Iron Man 3 was not only partially shot in Beijing but also stars Xueqi Wang as Doctor Wu and has multiple product placements for Chinese electronics manufacturer TCL. A Chinese version of the film will also feature “specially prepared bonus footage” and an appearance by megastar Fan Bingbing.

The film has spectacular effects which are worth seeing in 3D, and the story is strong enough that seeing the film is regular 2D will also be a good experience. Iron Man 3 is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Marvel Studios presentation made in association with Paramount Pictures. Iron Man 3 runs 130 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content. The first hot ticket of the summer blockbuster, Iron Man 3, is in theaters now.

More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.



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