When last we saw billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he was in good spirits and coming off a hard-fought victory with his fellow Avengers to literally save the world. And eating schwarma.
As “Iron Man 3” opens however, we learn that Stark is haunted by his experiences from “The Avengers,” what with the arrival of malevolent aliens and Norse gods, Stark’s worldview has been considerably disrupted.
So troubled is Stark, the former weapons-designer-turned-heroic-do-gooder has obsessively thrown himself into his work (more than usual) to keep from thinking about what he’s seen — a productive if flawed coping mechanism that’s part denial, part post-traumatic stress disorder suppression, showing up in the form of sleeplessness and severe anxiety attacks.
Stark’s CEO and girlfriend (I guess that’s what you’d call her at this point), Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) worries about his health as he tinkers away in the basement of his opulent Malibu cliffside home, ever-upgrading, duplicating and improving the Iron Man suits.
Even Stark’s sentient computer, Javis (voiced by Paul Bettany) is concerned for Stark’s mental and physical health.
Here to help Stark work through his PTSD with humor (and lots of explosions) is director Shane Black, who wrote “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which he also directed.
Under Black’s direction, “Iron Man 3” is an ominously exciting affair, wired for maximum intensity (and enjoyment), frequently moving as fast and furious as Iron Man himself.
While the first “Iron Man” movie ushered in the modern age of high-gloss Marvel Comics-inspired movies, “Iron Man 2” was largely forgettable (at least I think it was — I can’t remember). This installment however, for me at least, was the best of the three — funnier, smoother, more surprising and complex than the previous “Iron Man” movies, while still honoring most of the traditional superhero movie tropes.
And in the way of villains, the selection is better this time around too.
On the world stage is an enigmatic terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who claims responsibility for several bombings in an effort to bait the U.S. President (William Sadler) into calling Stark’s friend, Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) into service.
Previously, Rhodes had his own Iron Man-like suit, War Machine, which had since been given a stars and stripes paint job and been re-christened as Iron Patriot.
Closer to Tony’s own life is genius named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who comes to Stark Enterprises to pitch a biotech which can potentially re-grow a human’s missing limbs or digits.
Former dork Killian — seen in the 1999 flashback which opens the film — is suave now and exhibits symptoms of an almost stalker-like crush on Pepper.
Stark’s head of security, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, who directed the first two films) keeps tabs on Killian’s dangerous-looking goons. Meanwhile, a one-night stand of Tony’s (Rebecca Hall) reappears with dubious intentions.
Black relishes the opportunity to play in this big superhero sandbox, keeping things moving at a steady pace, with high-energy action sequences popping up naturally in the story, just when you’re starting to think you could use another one.
Downey’s delivery of Stark’s usual wise-acre dialogue — perhaps the best in the series — is spot-on as always. To one bad guy he’s captured: “You’ve got a minute to live. Fill it with words.”
Although there’s the introduction of a possible junior sidekick, it’s handled organically and doesn’t feel forced or becomes cloying, having a pay off that will no doubt please audiences.
Stark isn’t entirely glib about his feelings for Pepper however, taking his love for her seriously, even if his expression of it is usually wrapped in a joke — he’s a man, what else would you expect? His love for her, more than anything, is what he takes the most seriously.
Overall, “Iron Man 3” delivers exactly what it should as a summer blockbuster — humor, romance (or at least the superhero movie equivalent of romance), clever dialogue, and plenty of well-placed action sequences strategically placed within the movie, building to a climactic end-sequence which is a flat-out awesome piece of action-fantasy engineering. Excelsior!
“Iron Man 3” is rated PG-13 for moderate action, some language, mild innuendo, and gratuitous use of a limited edition Dora the Explorer watch as a plot device.
“Iron Man 3” is playing locally at the Claremore Cinema 8. For showtimes, contact CC8 at (918) 342-2422.