Release: Friday, May 3, 2013
“Did you see that?!” Yinsen, the doctor, implored a despondent Tony Stark to try and grasp the severity of the situation that lied before both of them, “Those are YOUR weapons. . . in the hands of those murderers! Is this what you want? Is this the last act to define the great Tony Stark…?”
All those years ago, back in that damp, dark cave the character and morality of one Tony Stark was called into question as his own company’s precious goods wound up in the hands of a terrorist organization. How he would respond to such a moment — whether to take action or to just sit by while terrorists reaped the benefits of his life’s brilliant and ambitious work — would not only come to define our lead character, but it would set the tone for our future enjoyment of Marvel’s latest creation: the Iron Man trilogy.
Indeed, Stark has come a long way since then. His character over the last four or five years has been idolized; his iron — okay, fine, his titanium alloy suit — adored and dissected by fans and critics alike. But with the arrival of the third and final installment, Stark is faced with new challenges — ones that seem to echo the sentiment of that one question Yinsen had asked, before Stark made his first stab at being the high-tech hero in 2008. With the threat of the dreaded Mandarin, he must again look within himself for a way to not be selfish, to put what matters the most before him. Can he change? And what kind of events are going to transpire to make him want to?
Iron Man 3 is a departure from the previous two for a few reasons, while managing to cling on to many of the qualities that have made Downey Jr’s Iron Man the lovable character that he’s become. One difference is who’s in the director’s chair: Shane Black takes over for Jon Favreau, who this time is in front of the camera playing Pepper Pott’s hilariously overzealous body guard, Happy Hogan. Another deviation from the other films is this one catches Tony at his most introverted. He will have to look inside himself to find a way to fight the evils that face him here: his home comes under attack, as does Pepper and Stark now finds himself having to revert to basics to protect that which matters most to him now. Whereas in the first, and in particular the second one, most of the story was spent developing the world of Tony Stark, what he had within his physical capabilities.
The third iteration of the Iron Man is no novel idea, however. We’ve seen a plot like this in many other hero stories that have been converted to the big screen. Being the capstone to one of Marvel’s more successful franchises, Iron Man 3 pretty much necessitated that the plot be more formulaic than original. This is not to say it’s boring, or that the story is baseless. With a few exceptions, the Marvel comic’s story is well-adapted. As the audience for the contemporary story, we’ve reached a point where we feel we intimately know the man behind the suit, and with Black’s brand of humor infused in virtually every element, we get a script and story we not only like but deserve. Black’s tongue-in-cheek is a great send-off for Stark and while we can’t help notice the well-worn territory we walk through, the hilarious and heartfelt nature of Black’s storytelling is well worth the entry fee. And then some.
Extremis, a miraculous breakthrough ‘medicine,’ developed by another brainiac named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), gives people the ability to regenerate body parts that have been lost to injury, birth defect or disease. Originally applied to plant life by another doctor years ago, Extremis is the latest business enterprise peddled by the overly excited Killian who is now trying to convince Pepper Potts, now CEO of Stark Industries, to invest in his think tank’s genius new idea. Seeing the obvious drawbacks to the methodology — in order for this to work, one has to have their DNA encoding manipulated, and you know, that just sounds kinda risky — Pepper turns Killian’s offer down. This sets in motion a series of events that will pit Stark’s love for himself against his love for another person in what can only be described as a battle of epic and laugh-out-loud proportions.
While the nature of being the final chapter in a trilogy tends to drown a piece in sentimentality, perhaps more than it rightfully should, the way Iron Man 3 closes out is surprisingly understated — despite the requisite gigantic action sequence at the end. I suppose that could easily be identified as a weaker ending than some might expect, but I honestly thought the conclusion fits quite well.
Along with a few rather large surprises, there is opportunity aplenty to go see this film multiple times in theaters and discover some new fun within its warped and twisted metal and gadgetry. In particular, Downey Jr.’s interaction with a Tennessee boy when he crash lands there on part of his mission to discover where and when the Mandarin has been attacking, is particularly entertaining, despite also being the movie’s most cliched moment. Thanks to the new director, it is actually these otherwise cheesy moments that wind up being some of the more humorous and attention-keeping. Black saw the second film, then realized that a Transformers-esque action-sequence that lasts forever does not a good movie make. He decides to play to his strengths, and fortunately, his strengths play much to our appeal.
Recommendation: As a whole, the new Iron Man films have been very well received the world over. This third edition is as reliable as any of them for the thrills, laughs and commanding screen presence from Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 also marks the reuniting of actor and director from the tongue-in-cheek 2005 murder-mystery Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. If that is any kind of marker, it is a decent predictor of the comedic rapport we’re going to experience between Shane Black and the Iron Man. Those who loved the first two are likely to not change their mind with this. And, of course, the story’s ultimate armor is that even non-fans of the comic are apt to take warmly to this farewell.
Running Time: 130 mins.
Quoted: “All right? Just play it cool, otherwise you come off grandiose.”
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