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Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3

Rating

Director
Shane Black
Screenplay
Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Length
130 min.
Starring
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer.
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content

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Source Material

Review
Tony Stark is once again fighting terrorists in the first follow-up to the massively successful team-up film The Avengers. Iron Man 3 comes out swinging and sets a high point against which all other successors must compare.

Eight years after his celebrated first feature (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), director Shane Black returns to the big screen to helm one of the most successful film franchises in history. As much as it is a part of The Avengers build-up, Iron Man has become a solid stand alone franchise. Ignoring the disappointing second installment, which was more a preview for The Avengers than a sequel to Iron Man, Iron Man 3 returns us to the gritty and glossy world of Stark Industries where a billionaire playboy can become a superhero simply by constructing a technologically miraculous flying suit and displaying a great deal of adventure, determination and snark.

Finding something fresh in a franchise is a difficult challenge that has flummoxed even the most impressive starts. The Dark Knight Rises was a character-heavy disappointment after th astounding The Dark Knight, X-Men: The Last Stand couldn't hold a candle to the brilliant X2: X-Men United, and Spider-Man 3 paled in comparison to the superb Spider-Man 2. Black and his co-screenwriter Drew Pearce kept the excessive number of villains to a minimum, one of the reasons many of these third chapters fail so frequently. The Mandarin is a worthy foe, but the setup for the expected villainy of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) dominates the film in ways the trailer could never have prepared.

As M. Night Shyamalan has discovered on multiple occasions, developing a twist at the 11th hour is a potentially disastrous move. Iron Man 3 keeps its primary secret closely guarded and trots it out at the perfect time, setting up the final act of the film without seeming pushy or abusive. There are a couple of other minor tweaks on the expected narrative, but unlike Tom Cruise's Oblivion, nothing is telegraphed so early that it becomes obvious.

Robert Downey Jr. has been wearing on my nerves since Iron Man 2. His egotistical schtick fits Tony Stark well, but often feels like it's a simple extension of the actor and not a performance at all. Here, he gets some time to shine as Tony begins to doubt himself after this near-fatal final salvo in The Avengers (there's a flashback, so you aren't required to have seen that film to get it). Can a mere mortal effectively combat magic, gods and aliens or is he in way over his head. With the help of a plucky, poorly written grade schooler (Ty Simpkins), Tony sets himself on the road to recovery after his seaside home is demolished in a spectacular visual effects set piece.

The visual effects are once again outstanding, continuing to blur the lines of reality. Although it would be easy to celebrate the spectacular series of explosions and miniature sets being destroyed, some of the best effects come in the form of a red-hot human flesh, fire boiling up from inside. The effect could have been cheesy, but comes off fluidly.

On the surface, Iron Man 3 treats terrorism a bit too broadly, making it seem like a series of bogeymen out to destroy the U.S. for being "the greatest nation on the planet." Yet, as the film plays out, the filmmakers are clearly commenting on how a preponderance of evidence is presented to the public in order to rally support against terrorist bogeymen while highlighting the dangerousness of the insidious threats that are kept out of the public eye.

Iron Man 3 may be a thrilling adventure with Tony Stark taking on a slew of deadly super soldiers, but at its heart, there's a carefully phrased indictment of corporate greed. For me, a film that has more to say than would appear on the surface is an inherently better film than one that's strung together to elicit cheers from the audience without asking them to think. Marvel wins this round, but will the other Avengers be able to keep up or will the inevitable Iron Man 4 continue the upward trend or return to the failures of the second outing?
Oscar Prospects
Guarantees: Visual Effects
Probables: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
Review Written
May 9, 2013

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