The Man Inside the Metal Box – A Film Review of Iron Man 3

Everyone loves Tony Stark. I mean, what’s not to love … right? He’s smart, funny, handsome and worth piles and piles of money. Stark is the dude at the party you want to be seen with and the guy most girls want to go home to. He’s awesome. Fantastic. Yes, his ego is pretty much completely out of control and his lack of appropriate behavior is near childlike while he dashes from person to person forgetting who they are, playing with their emotions like a cat finding a small mouse to terrorize before gobbling it down with a smile … but come on … what’s not to like … right?

Well wrong. Apparently there is a lot of stuff to hate about Tony Stark and in director Shane Black’s (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) first flight into the Marvel Universe, we get to see just how much and what lengths some people may go for a little revenge.

Based loosely on the 2005 Extremis story arc from the Iron Man comic books, the new film once again unites Robert Downey Jr. (Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts, Stark Industries CEO and love interest for our hero) and Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes, pilot of the War Machine Armor and friend) against a whole new level of terrorism.

So here’s the skinny: After a quick flashback to New Years Eve 1999, we find Tony being Tony. Boozing it up, being the guy everyone knew prior to the events in the first Iron Man movie. While putting the moves on young scientist Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), an awkward Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) approaches with some new ideas. However, Tony being his usual brash self, takes the opportunity to show how clever he is and before breakfast the next morning potentially burns bridges against two of the top minds in the world.

Fast forward to now and the world has a whole person to be afraid of – The Mandarin (a remarkable and wonderful Ben Kingsley), a human horror that has taken shape in the shadow of the alien invasion thwarted by the Avengers in New York. In seemingly a passionate hate for the United States, the Mandarin is producing acts or terror throughout the world, all targeting U.S. forces or civilians.

At the same time, back from outer space … literally, Tony is having some issues. Panic attacks and a fear of not being prepared for every possible threat have made him a bit of a tech-hermit much to the dismay of Pepper. Unluckily for Tony, into Stark Industries walks a now, unawkward Killian who has more than new technology that he’d like to show off to Tony’s love interest.

And then … boom. Explosions, mayhem, personal vendettas get explained, terrorism and more happen all culminating in perhaps the best individual hero story that Marvel has produced to date.

This film is solid. Entertaining, tense during the action scenes, funny and engaging are all the top layer ways to describe the overall film. As always, Downey, Jr. is spot on as the quick-witted hero and with great performances by secondary characters like Pearce and Kingsley, the film feels well-rounded and smart. At the same time, the dialogue throughout the film is strong for nearly every character including the random bad guy goons making all people involved seem more real and somewhat intelligent. Why is this important you ask? Well, because the old, tired scene where the hero is caught and surrounded by armed guards becomes a memorable, hilarious sequence where throw-away guards are able to be people and not just cardboard tough-guys who are there just to be pulverized by the hero. It’s the little things that matter and this film is, for the most part, full of them.

Along with that, in comparison to Iron Man and Iron Man 2, this film’s structure and story is much more compelling and better. It, unlike its predecessors, does not fall apart during its climaxes and, as a whole, better humanizes the hero as a character. This continues to other characters and even adds some wonderful twists that, in my opinion, ground the villain in realism that I both appreciated and loved.

However, not everything is all shiny with the armor. Like always, I think the film is too long and with action scenes that are breath-tauntingly fun, there is just too much time in between them. Along with that a new side character is introduced and to my dismay, it’s a kid. Yuck. Not to say that Ty Simpkins is a bad actor, but the story seemingly forces him into it and everything about him feels convenient, heavy-handed and at times irritating. Seriously, out of every kid that Tony Stark can bump into, it’s the one that has an understanding of electronics and physics? The dialogue between them saves the experience, but for me, too much, too long and too yuck.

Also, while very fun to watch, there is a battle that is very much a rehash from Iron Man 2 and, in a way, kind of pussifies the integrity of the Iron Man armor and makes you wonder how Tony’s lasted so long during the Chitauri invasion from the Avengers.

It’s only after over-thinking and reflecting on the film after the credits roll that I realized there are a few more holes in the script that, in the end could have made the experience so much better. I won’t go into detail here because they involve major plot lines and may spoil the fun, but I will say that if this film is the fist step to what Marvel Comics is calling Phase 2 for the film franchise, they missed out on including more from the Avengers and overall character universe.

With that being said, mass audiences are going to eat this film up with a spoon and ask for seconds. The inclusion of all the different types of armor is a toy and marketing goldmine that Disney is already capitalizing on with the Hall of Armor exhibit at Disneyland. Solid acting, a quality, compelling story with wonderful dialogue and fun action sequences will make this the summer movie to beat. With few gripes and more good, fans of the series will enjoy the film and even hardcore nerds will put down their 20-sided die to give it the praise it needs. There a few character choices that some may hate, but I found to be refreshing and brave. On a cold, blustery May day in Kansas City, this film is a great way to get you out of the weather and into a warm, action adventure.

3.75 out of 5 giant, stuffed bunny rabbits

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