Iron Man 3,
directed by Shane Black
(Walt Disney Pictures, 2013)

Iron Man 3 earns its superhero movie credits by mining territory that been covered in the first two films. But it's clever enough to make you believe, in the beginning, anyway, that it's going after something unique and new. By the end of the movie it's clear that it's a familiar tale, but it doesn't have that "been there, done that" feel. It's funny, it has great heart and it's a lot of fun. The production values are terrific and the colors and special effects are crystal clear, even as it turns into a typical but action-packed, highly entertaining, explosion-laden conclusion. It may be the best of the series so far.

The film begins in 1999, with pre-Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) attending a conference and enjoying a one-night stand with brilliant biologist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). On route to her room to talk about botany, Stark is met by an overeager, highly geeky, somewhat disabled, very brilliant scientist by the name of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark promises to meet him but blows him off, setting in motion a chain of events that begins with a fragile genius's rejection and ends with Stark facing his worst enemy: a man as smart as he is but with far more confidence.

Stark isn't in good shape in the emotional aftermath of his New York encounter in The Avengers. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is suffering. Before he can get his stuff in a pile, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is seriously injured in a terrorist attack at Gruman's Chinese Theater in the first of a wave of terrorist attacks aimed at destabilizing the government. Stark's first encounter with this new threat leaves him broken and battered and trying to fix a powerless suit while the mysterious enemy continues to score.

Downey's performance has heart and soul. He makes you care about his moral awakening. The action sequences are top notch, including a mid-air rescue scene that tops anything I've ever seen in a superhero movie to date. We also get to see Pepper suit up in her boyfriend's armor.

Director Shane Black uses a number of interesting circumstances to deepen the emotional undertone of what could have been a bunch of action set pieces, including Stark's bonding relationship with a young boy during his temporary exile from the superhero scene, a moment made all the more real and worthwhile for his utterly delightful sense of irony. Black also uses the lead-up to the Christmas holidays, in which the story is set, in very creative ways.

This is one superhero installment that doesn't just move people around a board and then go on to the next movie. It goes down a well-trampled road but it still has heart and the effort that was put into it is quite evident. A great summer movie for the start of the blockbuster season.

review by
Mary Harvey

15 June 2013

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