Thursday, May 2, 2013

IRON MAN 3 Review

The biggest problem with "Iron Man 3" is that it doesn't feel like an "Iron Man" movie. Under the new helm of writer/director Shane Black, best known for writing "Lethal Weapon" and collaborating with Robert Downey, Jr. on "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," there's a new level of manic energy that's hard to place. He co-wrote the script with Drew Pearce which is full of material for Downey, Jr. to chew on as the sardonic smart-ass Tony Stark. There's no doubt he brings his A-game, spurting off one-liners and verbal sparring that's fun and infectious. It's just too bad everything else about this Marvel outing is pure cash grab, a hold-over until the real sequel arrives.

But that also doesn't stop an onslaught of other Marvel outings we'll be seeing later this year and next, too. "Thor: The Dark World" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" are both on their way, part of the second Marvel wave before the second act, the main attraction that is "The Avengers 2." This Iron Man outing serves more as a sequel to "The Avengers" than actually "Iron Man 2" itself. The characters reference the incidence in New York, the opening of an alien wormhole in the sky at the conclusion of Joss Whedon's extravaganza. Still reeling from it, Tony Stark is unstable, not sleeping, suffering from panic attacks and working on endless replicas of his metal suit.

The Mickey Rourke-Sam Rockwell villain combo from "Iron Man 2" may not have been the strongest, but at least it wasn't the lame-brained concoction the Mandarin (played with exuberance by Ben Kingsley) is. He is the face of an entire terrorist manifesto, which is meant to be the core of the film's darker storyline as represented in the trailers. But once the plot begins peeling away the layers of Mandarin's evil and introduces a mad scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), logic gets thrown to the wind, and the nationwide threat becomes borderline farcical. Devolving into a jarring mix of quippy humor and shocking violence, the movie is tonally all over the place.

Once the action gets underway, some of these sequences are great. The total annihilation of Tony Stark's cliffside Malibu house is thrilling as is the highly-teased free-fall sequence out of Air Force One as Iron Man soars through the sky to catch an improbable number of people. These harrowing scenes, however, are wasted in a screenplay that instead chooses to take Tony Stark to the heart of middle America to meddle around with some young boy. Luckily the temptation of sentimentality is avoided as Stark is consistently snarky and shooting the boy down every chance he gets. Still, the whole second act is a weird diversion when more important characters should be getting screen time.

Don Cheadle's Rhodes has a newly re-branded Iron Patriot that gets minimal use while Gwyneth Paltrow's once sweet and charming Pepper Potts bursts onto the scene as her own form of superhero looking more bronzed, more ripped and sporting only a sports bra for the film's climactic battle: an onslaught of clashing metal reminiscent of a "Transformers" movie. Shane Black does have fun with new twists in the Stark technology having individual pieces of the suit remote-controlled and soaring onto the body of different characters -- Rhodes and Potts included.

But what more is there to say? What once started as a strong and promising franchise has turned into another perfunctory cog in the Marvel machine with this threequel. The ending credits tease that Tony Stark will return, and we can only hope that's referring to the next "Avengers" and not "Iron Man 4."

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