FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES — One of the most impressive aspects of “Iron Man 3” (“IM3”) is how strikingly it stands apart from its predecessors while remaining every bit as entertaining.
Writer/Director Shane Black (“Lethal Weapon”; “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang”) crafts a comic-book extravaganza that has both an engaging story and a heart. Black proves himself adept — mostly — at knowing how and to what degree to effectively use the eye-popping special effects tools at his disposal.
Granted, in the film’s final frames, he loses some of that restraint and “IM3” falls prey, somewhat, to the excess of “super-busy syndrome.” During the scenes in question, there’s so much action, so many special effects and so many simultaneous, epic battles of good versus evil, that the film becomes frazzled, losing focus and rhythm. Even so, the problem is only intermittent, and Black never completely loses control.
For me, “IM3” brought to mind, to a slight degree, comparisons to 1980’s “Superman II.” About a quarter way through, Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), loses his ‘mojo’ when his super-suave, super-hero pad is razed by the gunships of notorious super villain/terrorist “The Mandarin” (Sir Ben Kingsley).
Along with Stark’s home, nearly all his numerous Iron Man suits are also destroyed. Stark, in fact, escapes the scene with little more than the Iron Man suit on his back. Fortunately, Stark’s wife, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) also escapes.
JARVIS (Paul Bettany), the onboard artificial intelligence that helps guide the Iron Man suits, navigates Stark to a crash landing somewhere in rural Tennessee, where Stark is taken in by a spunky 10-year-old named Harley (Ty Simpkins).
The Iron Man suit is badly damaged and out of juice. Stark is trapped in the middle of nowhere trying to figure a way to get gassed up again and back in the saddle so he can return to battle against the Mandarin.
Time’s running out. The Mandarin, who’s been committing acts of terrorism throughout the film, is planning a grand final act against the president and U.S. government.
To make matters worse, there’s a second villain gunning for Stark, this one a technofile-geek-turned-god named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Plus, The Mandarin isn’t quite all he seems to be.
Will Tony Stark repair his suit and regain his “powers” before it’s too late?
Black makes an interesting choice in giving Iron Man himself limited screen time. Instead, we get quite a bit more of a suitless Tony Stark. Downey Jr. is always a charming, welcome presence and that’s no different here, and he carries his scenes with aplomb. Plus, giving Iron Man limited screen time also allows Black to more fully develop Stark as a character and to humanize him. Downey Jr. is well up to the task of providing Stark with depth.
Therein lies another of Black’s strengths: his ability to fully develop these characters into people we relate to and care about. “IM3” is also very funny.
All in all, this film can’t be described as “better” than its predecessors — not precisely. It’s not. But it is its own wholly unique creation and sports a strikingly different cinematic vibe.
Although this series wasn’t in particular need of re-invigoration (director Jon Favreau’s two Iron Man films are terrific in their own right), “IM3” feels like a franchise re-energized.
“Iron Man 3” also stars Miguel Ferrer, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale and Don Cheadle.
Rating: Lone-wolf howl
Runtime: 130 minutes
Rated PG-13 for cartoonish, sci-fi/fantasy violence.
Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011