IRON MAN 3 REVIEW (GRADE: A-)
The first Iron Man will forever be the film that took us all by surprise and laid the foundation for everything that followed. The Avengers inspired geeky-joy by skillfully uniting, balancing, and utilizing so many heroes on the screen at once. But Iron Man 3 is, in my opinion, the strongest standalone (read: non-Avengers) superhero film yet from Marvel Studios, though others may disagree. Don't let the trailers fool you: while there's doom and gloom and action galore, this is an uproariously funny film. Speaking of the trailers: stop watching them. Don't talk to friends who've seen the film unless they can zip their lip about spoilers. I'd recommend heading out this weekend so the twists and turns aren't revealed to you beforehand.
You won't get anything major from me. The spoiler-light gyst is that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) isn't the same man since the events of The Avengers. Coming extremely close to death has humbled him and left him with post-traumatic stress. The cocky swagger is still there, but it's mostly an outer shield; the man is terrified that he might not be able to defend the world or protect the woman he loves (Gwyneth Paltrow, Contagion) from his enemies. When a vicious and enigmatic terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, Hugo) threatens to bring America to its knees, Tony's battle is as much with his own insecurities as it is with evil.
There's actually a lot more to the story; the twists and turns are part of the fun. New-to-the-franchise director and co-writer Shane Black (whose credits include the Lethal Weapon movies) brings a fresh vision and tone. Much like Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, Tony Stark is a broken man of sorts who spends most of the film out of his superhero suit. The similarities end there, however; while that film was somber and serious, Iron Man 3 is an all-out romp.
Watching Tony, stripped of his armor, relying on his intelligence and ability to improvise when his tech fails
him, turns out to be great fun and a marvelous showcase for Downey as an actor. It's part detective story, part enduring romance, and part buddy-hero film, with witty dialogue and unexpected moments of humor as its greatest strengths, even amidst the chaos and menace.
The performances are terrific, from series regulars Downey, Paltrow, and Favreau to newcomers Kingsley, Rebecca Hall (The Prestige), and Guy Pearce (The King's Speech). Don Cheadle (Ocean's Eleven, Hotel Rwanda) is given more to do than ever as Rhodey; he and Downey have a buddy chemistry here that's more than a little reminiscent of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon films. Even Stark's potentially eye-rolling friendship with a small boy is handled with a tough, non-sentimental humor that had our audience in stitches.
The film's imperfections are minor (though one major twist, not revealed in the trailers, you'll either love or hate; I loved it). There are a few apparent plot holes (though perhaps I overlooked the explanations). Otherwise, however, Iron Man 3 is a lively and spirited entry into the Marvel canon and a rollicking way to jump-start the summer movie season. The effects are stunning, the fictional technology a blast, and the story is strong and focused.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13. There is plentiful action violence, mostly
bloodless, including persons exploding in flame, shootings, and stabbings. A terrorist's videos are edited to creepy effect. There is scattered moderate profanity throughout. A few women are briefly seen in bikinis and there are a handful of innuendos. It is implied that Tony Stark slept with a woman when he was younger and a womanizer.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: With humility and faith, our weaknesses can become strengths (Ether 12:27). Sometimes couples who don't have the Gospel live together (with all that that implies); however, only those with God's law are accountable for living it (Mosiah 3:11; Luke 12:48). Teamwork and unity are necessary for overcoming evil (1 Corinthians 1:10; Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).
Now, just for fun, here's someone I saw at the 2008 Dragon-Con in Atlanta: It's Iron Man!