A GOOD PR PERSONALITY IS HARD TO FIND
Iron Man 3 picks up after the events of The Avengers. After battling aliens, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is traumatized and finds himself having a hard time sleeping. He spends the midnight hours building more Iron Man suits putting a strain on his relationship with his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
When the attacks of a mysterious terrorist known as Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hits too close to home, Tony publicly challenges him but discovers that he must face an insurmountable enemy.
Looks like this third installation will be the last of the Iron Man franchise and for the first time, Jon Favreau isn’t directing. He returns as Happy Hogan but that’s about it. I have to admit the discrepancy is felt in this film. Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) takes the helm and he does a decent job but the pacing is bit faster and in my opinion a bit joltier than the previous installations. Not storytelling isn’t fluid but still a thrilling one.
In my opinion, a good comic book, action hero movie is an amalgam of the comic book’s signature elements as well as creating their own elements. Some purists might find fault with that but if I just wanted the story of the comic book then I just read the comic book.
I always thought from the beginning that Robert Downey, Jr. was perfectly cast for this role. That’s how I always imagine Tony Stark, full of bravado, arrogance but extremely smart and bold. I never really put much thought into Pepper Potts but I think Gwyneth Paltrow is okay in the role. She partly represents Stark’s human side but other than that she doesn’t hold a great deal of importance for me. Don Cheadle also does a decent job as Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes having to take over the role from Terrence Howard from the first movie. Similarly, he’s also not a hugely important character other than keeping Tony grounded.
In this movie, I like that we get to explore Tony Stark’s emotional vulnerabilities. Where Pepper and Rhodey are unable to get through to him, the villain touches Stark’s nerve which drives him to act. Mandarin’s chilling words and actions can only cause Tony to stumble if he is the broken man that he appears to be early on in the movie. While spending time with a young boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), he rediscovers his purpose and gains back some confidence.
Which brings me to Mandarin. I did love the comic books as a kid. Loved the cartoons. Hated this villain. It was hard for me not to find the ambiguous Asian stereotypes offensive further illustrated by his gnarly mannerisms and high-pitched voice in the cartoon series. And yet, he is Iron Man’s big bad. Just like how Batman had the Joker and Professor X had Magneto.
I was curious to see how they finally depicted him and I think Ben Kingsley does an excellent job. Simply put, he steals the show. As Mandarin the terrorist, Kingsley does a cold deadpan delivery of his lines and it’s chilling to watch. He knows how to use the media to his advantage. When Iron Man finally encounters Mandarin, that’s when the fun of the movie really begins. I’ll just leave it at that and that he gives a brilliant performance as is expected from this Oscar winner.
Guy Pearce has also played his share of bad guys over the years and he always so good at playing those slick bad guys. Unfortunately, I feel like Aldrich Killian is made of all those typical elements for a comic book bad guy. Powerless and rejected, Killian turns himself around just to get back at Tony Stark. Guy Pearce has said that he is more experimental in the roles that he takes these days preferring smaller roles over the lead. While I get that he’d rather spend time with his family, Aldrich Killian certainly isn’t an experimental role for him. I think Pearce’s experimental roles came in the early days of his career with The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, L.A. Confidential and Memento.
Having said that, Iron Man 3 was a fun movie. Sure, the explanation of some story plot elements are a great stretch but I can forgive some of those things in a comic book action movie. Maybe some will be surprised by the high rating below after all I said above but really Ben Kingsley’s performance puts the movie above mediocre. The film as a whole certainly hits all the necessary notes and it was a nice way to end the series. Let’s hope the studio sees that too as we’re so used to them not knowing when to call it quits. Like, did we really need another Fast & Furious?