‘’Oh, it’s good to be back!’’ ~ Tony Stark When we last saw ol’ Shellhead (Robert Downey, Jr), he was chowing down on some mouth-watering shawarma with the rest of his costumed buddies, but prior to that, the man in armor was on a suicide mission – launching a missile through a closing portal at the fleet of Chitauri. The event haunts Tony in Iron Man 3. Stark can’t sleep, and he’s suffering from bad panic attacks. He wants to protect the one person he loves, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but how can he do that when aliens, Gods and other beings he can’t even fathom, exist.
Meanwhile, a terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is the cause of random bombings. After each explosion, the man with the ten rings broadcasts a treating message to America. Stark becomes overzealous and calls Mandarin out. Not a bright idea because the response leaves Tony without a functioning suit of armor in the middle of nowhere. Stark must use his noggin’ to pull himself out of this deep hole before things go from bad to worse…not aliens are invading worse, but, yeah, things are going south.
Newcomer Shane Black handles Iron Man just fine from the director’s chair. He adds a charming buddy cop element (no surprise there, he did write Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), and inserts a bit more comedy than I was expecting into the script. Most of the comedy works, but sometimes it goes just a little overboard. The action definitely delivers some WOW factors, but the pacing was a bit jumbled. Joss Whedon did a much better job pacing Iron Man’s action – it felt like a perfectly pieced jigsaw. Beside these flaws, I think Black has a great understanding of Tony Stark/Iron Man. He knows what makes Iron Man appealing, and amps it up!
Downey brings a vulnerability to Tony Stark this time around, that keeps the character feeling fresh. After four movies, I still adore Downey’s take on Stark. Sure the character can be a dick, but he’s a lovable dick. Kingsley’s portrayal as Mandarin is utterly brilliant. I can’t say much about the character, but he will leave a memorable mark. James Badge Dale gives a worthy devilish performance, but no one else really pacts a punch. Don Cheadle is boring, and Iron Patriot felt wasted. The rest of the cast does a good job, but Jr. and Kingsley easy drives this movie.
There’s not much else I can say about Iron Man 3 without giving away plot points and spoilers, but the third installment has some great commentary on disguises and what really makes a man. Black accomplished this through some genuine surprises. This easily tops Iron Man 2, but Iron Man is still miles ahead of both its predecessors.