Nonstop Movies: ‘Iron Man 3’

I am somewhat torn over “Iron Man 3.” As a film fan, I thought it was entertaining and a tremendous improvement over the plodding, exposition heavy “Iron Man 2.” But as a comic book geek, I was a tiny bit perturbed that the film took such extreme liberties with a major character that it was nonsensical to even include him.

“Iron Man 3” takes place after the alien invasion of New York in “The Avengers.” Prior to that attack, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) thought he knew it all. But after experiencing the trauma of the alien invasion and confronting gods from the heavens, he’s shaken up and suffering from PTSD-type symptoms. He experiences anxiety attacks and can’t sleep, so he keeps his mind busy by continuously tinkering with his Iron Man armor. His obsession with his work has strained his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and meanwhile, a new terroristic threat called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has been setting off explosions around the country, demanding the attention of not only Iron Man, but his friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who also wears the armor of the Iron Patriot.

Downey Jr. owned the Tony Stark character from the very start, and now in his fourth go around, he’s been able to delve even deeper into the character. There’s no one who could better embody Stark’s swagger, confidence, genius and vulnerability. Paltrow also has grown into her role and does a great job with her added screen time. Supporting performances by Cheadle, Guy Pearce, original Iron Man director Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale and especially Kingsley round out the cast nicely.

Writer and director Shane Black was also an inspiring choice. The screenwriter of “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Boy Scout” and writer/director of the criminally under-appreciated “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” brings his trademark humor to an otherwise dark film. But he’s able to keep the combination well balanced, and as a result, “Iron Man 3” is the grimmest film of the three, yet the funniest. The action scenes are excellently executed, and there are several moments where audiences will be breathless, then exhale a Keanu Reeves-esque “whoa.”

But Black is also known for his bold choices and irreverence, and that’s where one of his choices may turn off some. His complete desecration of a major character will be highly debated by comic book fans, especially Iron Man fans. I won’t say which character or how he’s been altered, but as a comic book geek, I was shocked at how he was developed. It was so dramatic there really was no need to even include him. I truly do believe this character deserved better.

Cinematically, however, the decision does work and allows for a brilliant performance. The idea has actually been done many times before, but Black executes his vision effectively, and if I had known nothing of this character prior, I may have even applauded his choice of direction.

All in all, “Iron Man 3” is a very satisfying inclusion into the Marvel Universe of films and one I would definitely watch again. Also, it should go without saying, but stay beyond the credits for a pretty funny bonus scene.

“Iron Man 3,” 130 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters Friday.