By Laurie Coker
While certainly not perfect, Iron Man 3 is, plain and simple, FUN! Most of which can be attributed to Robert Downey Jr.’s playful, wit-ridden delivery and wild antics. Director (and co-writer with first-timer Drew Pierce) Shane Black who is better known behind the pen (Lethal Weapon) than in front, gives us an Iron Man with a great deal of punch. Still it is not without technical flaws and slow moments. Ultimately, Black and crew give us a tremendously likable film in spite of imperfections, one far better than the second installment and but not as good as the first
When the film opens Tony Stark is up to his usual – playing with gadgets, acting neurotic and pissing off Pepper Potts -but a new terror looms and Stark, who seems to suffer from insomnia and anxiety attacks, must step up to once again save the world. In true form, Tony publically bites his thumb at the elusive Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a man bent on global annihilation. Stark’s snarky display is followed by a near deadly helicopter attack on his beautiful, state-of-the-art, cliff side home, forcing Tony to heads for Tennessee seeking clues to the Mandarin’s identity and other attacks.
Black, whose directing portfolio includes only one other film – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring Downey Jr. – uses his star to the benefit of the film. Downey Jr. delights, with particularly entertaining moments between him and Pepper and his young co-star, Ty Simpkins, who plays Harley Keener a boy who Stark encounters in Tennessee. Simpkins seems to have has much fun as Downey Jr. In fact, because of the enjoyment Downey Jr. appears to have every step of the way, we have a great time with the film.
If fault be found, it is with the story and the direction. Black tries far too hard to do so much with his time, and as a result he fails to flesh out many things well – stories, characters, his action sequences. While I found the interaction between Tony and Harley amusing, Black pulls these characters together and then drops the relationship almost completely, until a bit piece at the end and Black relies on narration to superficially set up the premise for the films underlying and therefore predictable conflict. His editing and CGI crews clearly worked overtime, but the end result is often choppy and flashy to the point of distraction. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy watching the wild chases and extravagant explosions and I know my grandson did, but the editing is bit of a mess.
The cast, however, is excellent. Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau reprises their roles as Colonel James Rhodes and Happy Hogan, but have limited screen time. Still when Rhodes (aka War Machine) and Hogan interact with Stark, clever humor abounds. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley play the film’s antagonists and they have a great deal of fun with their characters as well. Kingsley’s over the top terrorist offers a surprise twist and some good chuckles. I am not really a fan of Pearce, perhaps in part because he does play sinister bad guys most often, and his Aldrich Killian strays little from other creepy characters he’s chosen in the past.
For fans of the first Iron Man film and the franchise as a whole, Iron Man 3 offers an amusing enough diversion, even if I am also sure hardcore Avengers and Iron Man supporters will take stock in Black’s shortcomings. For me, the story drags in a few too many places, but over all I enjoyed it, as did my guest, so I am placing a B in my grade book.