Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, with Ben Kingsley
Director: Shane Black
Screenplay: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Science Fiction/Action/Adventure, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes
Scott, we just watched Iron Man 3 – the first Summer blockbuster of 2013. What did you think?
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
Greg, Iron Man isn’t my favorite superhero and so I went into the theater with low-ish expectations. I left surprised at the quality of this movie. Shall we recap?
There’s a new terrorist in town – it’s the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). He’s responsible for seemingly random bombings of great power across the United States. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is taking these bombings seriously because his bodyguard and good friend Happy Hogan was a victim. Stark lays down the gauntlet telling the Mandarin through the media that this time, it isn’t politics that motivates him – it’s revenge.
Stark underestimates the Mandarin, who lays waste to Stark’s home and nearly kills him, his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and an old girlfriend with a dangerous secret. Stark travels to Tennessee to examine a bomb site and soon learns that the Mandarin is using maimed U.S. war veterans to test Extremis, a new method of regenerating human limbs that turns people into molten-hot superhumans.
The Extremis procedure sometimes fails, causing some veterans to literally explode. These are the Mandarin’s so-called terrorist bombs, and after Pepper is captured by the Mandarin, Stark’s mission is to stop him and his legions of superhumans, and to bring Pepper to safety.
Stark is plagued by Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his experiences in New York City (see The Avengers). This is his Missing Inner Quality: he lacks confidence in himself. And this sets up the real thrust of this film. While on one level it’s all about catching the Mandarin and stopping him, it’s really about Tony Stark competing with the Iron Man suit. The majority of the action in this film surrounds Tony Stark using his intellect and special gifts as an inventor to uncover the basis for the terror attacks.
Greg, you’ve identified the central reason why I truly enjoyed this film. Stark shows a vulnerability and a humility that we haven’t seen in previous installments of Iron Man. He confesses that Pepper Potts means everything to him, thus revealing a renewed set of priorities in his life. Happy’s severe injury is also a staggering blow. We see him reach out in kindness to a young hurting boy. And he has panic attacks.
Stark is a man who has been knocked down a few pegs, and quite frankly I enjoyed witnessing him throughout this movie redefine himself and create a somewhat new and softer personal identity. My issue with previous Iron Man movies was Tony Stark’s utter macho narcissism. It’s refreshing to see him in this film display the kind of vulnerability necessary for him to heal, to grow, and to transform himself.
The production values were amazing. I saw the film in 3D and it was mind blowing. The Iron Man costume in this film is deconstructed so that individual parts of the suit can fly across the room and attach to Stark’s body. It created some very cool effects and some excellent plot twists. Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin was simply brilliant. I bought in to his character completely. The terror propaganda was especially well constructed.
Hearing you say this makes me regret seeing it in 2D. But even in 2D, the film is a visual delight. Most of all, the hero story works to great effect. Our hero Stark is brought by the Mandarin into a special world fraught with danger. We have a sinister (and deceptive) villain, a love interest, helpful sidekicks, and an unlikely mentor in a 10-year-old boy named Harley whose advice (“You’re a mechanic – make something”) is exactly what allows Stark to defeat the Mandarin.
The film isn’t perfect. I was most offended by allusions to Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein as mere figureheads to their terror organizations. I don’t think most Americans (and certainly most warfighters) saw them as just figureheads.
Also, the premise that human beings would become super-strong, regenerative, and explosive by inhaling a medication was more than I could believe. It seemed a plot device more suited for the X-Men than Iron Man.
I was willing to overlook these flaws, if you could call them that. After all, superhero movies take place in fantasy universes with their own peculiar set of physical laws. I rather liked the Extremis effects — human flesh became red-hot liquid steel and were more than an equal match to any of Stark’s suits.
But the important thing to me is the hero story, which was utterly satisfying and earned 4 Heroes out of 5. This Tony Stark has me interested in Iron Man again. The film itself was a visual delight and was able to combine humor with action in a very effective way. I give this movie 4 Reels out of 5.
Well I guess you have a better imagination than I do. Even in Science Fiction you have to acknowledge the existing science. I don’t see how inhaling any substance can make one’s hair fire-retardant. Still this was an exciting beginning to a summer destined to be filled with Science Fiction and Action films (is Summer coming earlier each year?). I give the film a rating of 4 out of 5 Reels. But I think this is the most perfect hero transformation I’ve seen in any of the Marvel films. I really liked the emphasis on Tony Stark, the man, as opposed to Iron Man, the suit. I give Tony a full 5 out of 5 Heroes.