The demons of Tony Stark’s past will not stop haunting him. In the first “Iron Man,” it was his exploitation of the weapons business that got him in trouble. In the second, it was his father’s legacy. In “Iron Man 3,” the latest film from Marvel, Tony must grapple with Aldrich Killian, a nerdy scientist he jilted in favor of spending a drunken New Year’s Eve with Rebecca Hall. Honestly, who could blame him? Hall is gorgeous and Aldrich has bad hair, worse teeth and probably some nasty body odor. Regardless, the sins of Tony’s past have reared their ugly heads yet again.
The first in Marvel’s planned Phase 2 of films designed to lead up to a “The Avengers” sequel, “Iron Man 3” finds Tony Stark struggling to cope with the events that transpired in “Avengers.” He can’t sleep, has panic attacks and he’s cut himself off from everyone to work on more Iron Man suits, even his girlfriend Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Stark returns to the land of the living when his friend/bodyguard Happy (director of the previous “Iron Man” films) is injured in an explosion, bringing the billionaire face to face with the mysterious terrorist known as The Mandarin, played by a woefully underused Ben Kingsley. The film needed more of Kingsley’s intimidating rants.
Director and co-writer Shane Black, who wrote the ’80s action classic “Lethal Weapon” and the more recent “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” the film that probably won Downey Jr. the role of Stark, infuses “Iron Man 3” with his trademark style of dialogue, with characters hurling witticisms back and forth at each other in that fun, playful way films used to do before everything was watered down by the quest to please the masses and get more box office receipts. One of the most entertaining segments in “Iron Man 3” isn’t even an action sequence. It involves Tony bantering back and forth with a child in small town Tennessee as he tries to discover the truth behind The Mandarin. A good chunk of “Iron Man 3” plays out like this, as if the film were masquerading as a buddy cop picture. Few know how to use Downey Jr. like Black, who brings Tony Stark back from the brash side he fell into with “Iron Man 2” and closer to the fun-loving, charismatic version in the original “Iron Man.”
“Iron Man 3” really almost plays as a character study in Tony Stark, who spends most of the movie without his precious suits as he battles a group of ex-soldiers powered by regenerating technology, developed by a now good looking and suave Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark is almost craftier without his suits, using every day items to build makeshift weapons to defend himself.
After the disappointment of “Iron Man 2,” which traded Stark’s charm in favor of a bloated action film, Marvel needed to renew moviegoer’s faith in the popular character. While not as good as the original “Iron Man” or “The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3” leans on story and character development instead of pointless action scenes, making it succeed as the rarest of entities; a smart, character-driven blockbuster.