As he marks his 50th year in the comic-book universe, Iron Man aka Tony Stark comes full circle in the satisfying third installment of Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise—a remarkable feat that wouldn’t be possible without Robert Downey Jr.
With his quick wit and penchant for reinvention, Downey helped buoy up “Iron Man 2’s” tedious tone and schizoid swagger. But, as they say, third time’s the charm—and, this time around, Stark finally comes to grips with his existentialist issues and learns to recalibrate his focus on the things that matter most for the vulnerable man inside the invincible armor.
Some bad habits are hard to break, however—and Stark learns his lessons the hard way when his reckless “arrogance” puts his lady love, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his friends in harm’s way. He likewise realizes that his showmanship is no match for the potent threats and flair for the theatrics of his latest nemesis, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
Haunted by the sins of his checkered past, Stark is forced to face the demons he helped create—but, how is The Mandarin related to charismatic visionary Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), and why is Tony’s former flame, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), eagerly pursuing him?
As Pepper’s life hangs in the balance, and with only bullied schoolboy Harley (Ty Simpkins) to help him get back on his feet, Iron Man must convince Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle)—whose alter ego, War Machine, has evolved into The Iron Patriot—to help him bring The Mandarin to justice. The situation degenerates further when the flamboyant terrorist’s genetically enhanced underlings manage to hijack Air Force One—and hold the US president hostage!
—Which makes you wonder where Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Bruce Banner are when Stark badly needs them—! The lingering question is a minor chink in “Iron Man 3’s” formidable armor, because the film cannot pretend that The Avengers don’t exist. After all, there are conspicuous references to their recent adventure together—and, one of them even appears in the epilogue!
With limited resources to keep the financially lucrative franchise going, director Shane Black successfully expands Iron Man’s superhero mythology and strikes a convincing balance between his film’s rousing sci-fi antics and the empathetic personal issues that keep its beleaguered hero relevant and “relatable” to viewers.
Moreover, as the movie allows Paltrow’s character to go beyond her damsel-in-distress persona, it “organically” introduces the superheroine, Rescue, without much fanfare.
Looking better than ever, Downey effectively anchors the production’s different elements—and pulls off “Iron Man 3’s” spectacularly engaging high-wire act, with crowd-pleasing panache!