Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
Bern, Switzerland. December 31, 1999. As the clock prepares to chime midnight to welcome in the new century Tony Stark is trying his best to occupy the time of a fellow scientist. A beautiful fellow scientist. As they make their way towards an elevator they are met by a quiet, disheveled man who introduces himself as Aldrich Killian. He extends his business card but the one-track minded Stark tells him to meet him on the roof in five minutes. Needless to say, he watches the Y2K fireworks alone.
Present day. While Stark spends his days in his workshop building new versions of his “Iron Man” suit (he’s currently on number 42), his former assistant/now love interest Pepper Potts is running things at Stark Industries. She is assisted by an overzealous Happy (Jon Favreau), Starks one-time bodyguard since promoted to head of security. Happy has an eye on a suspicious character loitering in the lobby (James Badge Dale). The gentleman is accompanying the tall, handsome stranger now talking with Pepper. Aldrich Killian.
Has it only been five years since “Iron Man” took flight and launched one of the most popular, both financially and critically, series of films ever made? In this version we find a Tony Stark who isn’t as cool and confidant as he was in the past. Due to the events featured in last summer’s “The Avengers” Stark is having the occasional nightmare. And panic attacks. And at a most inopportune time. It seems our government has drawn the raft of a terrorist who calls himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in what should be an Oscar nominated performance). With Iron Man on hiatus, it’s up to Colonel James Rhodes to put on his War Machine suit in order to protect the President (William Sadler), though in a new patriotic spirit War Machine is now known as the Iron Patriot. When a series of executions and bombings begin to threaten the country Stark decides he needs to get back in the battle.
Packed with virtually non-stop action from start to finish, “Iron Man 3” is the best film in the “Iron Man” series and among the best Marvel-inspired films ever, thanks to a top-notch cast, an almost flawless script and one of the most surprising directing jobs I’ve ever seen. With the exception of a previous working relationship with Downey, who he directed in his debut film “Kiss Bang,” I could not understand how Shane Black was hired to direct this film. Black, creator of the “Lethal Weapon” series as well as such testosterone-fueled films as “The Last Boyscout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” takes the reins from previous director (and now co-star) Favreau and gallops away with a film that excites and still packs a punch emotionally.
Downey, who pretty much invented the present day loveable smart ass, gives the film it’s emotional weight. As the Mandarin’s attacks get closer and closer to he and those he loves, Stark must react as only he can. As Pepper, Paltrow is much more than a minor character here and she runs with the new importance her character is afforded. Pearce is also strong in a role 180 degrees from anything he’s ever done before. Even though it’s been 30 years since Kingsley won an Oscar (for “Gandhi”) he continues to turn in outstanding work at a time in his career when others in his position are playing kindly grandfathers. As he approaches 70 Kingsley shows he’s got a few more surprises up his sleeve. The supporting cast (Sadler, Cheadle) really don’t have enough to do (the majority of Cheadle’s screen time is with his face obscured in the Iron Patriot suit) but that’s not the fault of either actor. The action sequences are entertaining as hell, with Black pulling off one of the greatest action sequences ever put on film, one that had the audience cheering when it was over. With the Boston Marathon bombing only a few weeks behind us, there is a chilling feel to the film, especially after one unaccompanied bomb kills everyone within a few yards of it. And, like the majority of the Marvel universe films, sit back and wait until the film ends to catch a little extra goodie or two after the credits.