Iron Man 3 ✮✮✮
by Glenn Lovell
Of all the superheroes, Tony Stark ‒ even without the cast-iron corset ‒ is the toughest to cozy up to. In many ways he’s the anti-Clark Kent: brash, snarky, egomaniacal. Who wants to root for a guy who spends all his time rooting for himself? If ever there was a hero who needed to be knocked down a peg or three, it’s Stark.
In Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” directed and co-written by Shane Black, the jerk playboy-inventor (Robert Downey Jr.) gets his comeuppance. He loses his cliff-side citadel/bachelor pad, his basement armory, his live-in girlfriend Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) … and a good measure of the old braggadocio. Exiled to the hinterlands by Act 2, Stark, dragging his decommissioned robotic suit through the snow, looks for all the world like an orphan in the storm.
No wonder the guy has debilitating anxiety attacks.
And who’s responsible for this precipitous fall? A pimply-faced egghead from his past named, appropriately, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Way back when Stark humiliated Killian in public. And now, even though Stark pronounces himself “a changed man,” the now bulked-up brainiac ‒ in league with the messianic Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) ‒ intends to have his revenge by cornering the market on terrorism with “the next iteration in human evolution,” i.e. human time bombs.
Before he can claw his way back in the obligatory pyrotechnic smack-down, Stark must do penance in a Capra-esque burg in Tennessee, where he meets a lonely kid named Harley (Ty Simpkins). A longtime Iron Man fan, Harley proves a formidable ally ‒ and almost Stark’s equal in manipulative posturing.
That “Iron Man 3” is the best Iron Man yet is due mainly to Shane Black, who, eight years ago, made his directorial debut with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” starring Downey in one of his best roles. Shane is certainly an improvement on Jon Favreau, who directed the first two installments and appears onscreen again as Happy, the mother-hen bodyguard. This time around characterization and clever plot twists drive the action, not the frenetic computer effects (though fans of such things won’t feel deprived). Downey obviously respects Shane. For the first time in the series, Hollywood’s most bankable smart-ass lets down his guard to reveal the heart beneath the armor.
Iron Man 3 ✮✮✮ With Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Shane Black; scripted by Black, Drew Pearce. 130 mins. PG-13 (for CG explosions, violence)