×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Iron Man 3’

Despite the inevitable franchise fatigue, this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect

With:
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Broussard, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany.

The third time is neither a particular charm nor the kiss of death for Marvel Studios’ robust “Iron Man” series, which has changed studios (from Paramount to Disney) and directors (Shane Black subbing for Jon Favreau) but otherwise toyed little with the formula that has so far generated more than $1.2 billion in global ticket sales. The inevitable franchise fatigue ― plus a markedly unmemorable villain ― may account for the feeling that “Iron Man 3” is more perfunctory and workmanlike than its two predecessors, but this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect to earn its weight in box office metal.

Part of the rich appeal of the first “Iron Man” (2008) came from the inspired casting of Robert Downey Jr., who brought loads of impish charisma and insouciance to the part of defense contractor turned iron-plated superhero Tony Stark. It was particularly fun to watch Downey becoming Iron Man, bobbing and weaving about in his space-age rocket suit like a novice surfer trying to stand up on a wave. You can only do an origin story once, alas, and some of the magic was already gone from 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” which pitted our hero against a stock Russian heavy (Mickey Rourke) in a standard-issue revenge narrative, but still found ample time for Stark and romantic foil Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to do their very passable Tracy-Hepburn routine. There was also a sly running commentary on the celebrification of American culture ― and, in Stark’s effort to rid himself of the shrapnel slowly poisoning his body, a deft analog for Downey’s own widely publicized battle with various forms of addiction.

Most of that is absent at the start of “Iron Man 3,” which finds Stark in fine physical shape ― if a bit mentally unhinged from the events of “The Avengers” ― and living in relative domestic bliss with the comely Ms. Potts. All of which leaves little for Black (and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce) to do other than summon up the latest villain from the Marvel dugout: A bearded, bin Laden-esque baddie who calls himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and who claims credit for a series of terror bombings, one of which, a frightening attack in front of Hollywood’s historic Chinese Theatre, has landed Stark security honcho Happy (Favreau) in a coma. (Although clearly unintentional, the movie’s recurring images of severed limbs and burning bodies can’t help but strike a queasy note in light of the recent events in Boston.) Spewing his boilerplate anti-American rhetoric in a series of crudely made videos that mysteriously jam the television airwaves, the Mandarin promises that “the big one is coming,” just in time for Christmas no less.

Popular on Variety

If we’ve learned anything from fantasy villains ranging from Darth Vader to the “Dark Knight” trilogy’s Ra’s al Ghul, first appearances can be deceiving. Suffice to say that the Mandarin is in some kind of cahoots with a couple of blasts from Tony Stark’s past: an experimental botanist (Rebecca Hall) and her wealthy benefactor, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), whose prize project, Extremis, involves “hacking” into the human DNA chain to cure the sick, heal the lame and pretty much do anything else you might desire. Upon hearing Killian’s pitch, Pepper notes that the technology sounds like it could easily be weaponized. She doesn’t know the half of it.

As an A-list screenwriter in the ’80s and ’90s, Black practically defined a certain brand of sardonic Hollywood action spectacle (his credits include “Lethal Weapon,” “The Last Boy Scout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”), then disappeared for most of the 2000s, surfacing briefly in 2005 with his directorial debut, the self-referential neo-noir “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (which featured Downey in a crucial comeback role). “Iron Man 3” reps a huge step up in terms of scale, and Black largely acquits himself well, keeping the pace brisk, deploying a couple of modest surprises and staging a few undeniably impressive, super-sized setpieces. Among them: an end-of-first-act raid that reduces Stark’s swank Malibu pad to smithereens, and a mid-film, mid-air rescue that draws upon some truly spectacular skydiving acrobatics.

SEE ALSO: ‘Iron Man 3’ Premieres in Hollywood (Photos)

The entire package is never less than professional, enhanced by ace tech contributions from cinematographer John Toll, production designer Bill Brzeski (replacing the late J. Michael Riva, who designed the first two films) and editors Jeffrey Ford and Peter S. Elliot. Yet the movie suffers from separating Downey from three of his best verbal sparring partners ― Favreau, Paltrow and Paul Bettany (as the voice of the uber-computer Jarvis) ― for much of the pic’s running time. And from top to bottom, Favreau’s handcrafted touch is conspicuously absent, particularly his affection for retro, Ray Harryhausen-esque visual effects. (This is by far the most digital-looking series entry.) Perhaps fittingly for a movie that introduces a new generation of remote-guided Iron Man suits, “Iron Man 3” all too often feels as if it were assembled by a machine.

Though advertised as “Iron Man 3” in all promotional materials, the pic’s full onscreen title reads as “Iron Man Three.”

Film Review: 'Iron Man 3'

Reviewed at AMC Loews Lincoln Square, New York, April 24, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 130 MIN.

Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Marvel Studios presentation in association with Paramount Pictures and DMG Entertainment of a Marvel Studios production. Produced by Kevin Fiege. Executive produces, Jon Favreau, Louis D’Esposito, Charles Newirth, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dan Mintz.

Crew: Directed by Shane Black. Screenplay, Drew Pearce, Black, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Bill Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby. Camera (Technicolor, widescreen, HD), John Toll; editors, Jeffrey Ford, Peter S. Elliot; music, Brian Tyler; music supervisor, Dave Jordan; production designer, Bill Brzeski; supervising art director, Desma Murphy; art director, Jay Pelissier, Alan Hook, Brian Stultz; set decorator, Danielle Berman; costume designer, Louise Frogley; sound (Dolby Digital/Dolby Atmos/Datasat), Jose Antonio Garcia, Peter Devlin; supervising sound editor, Mark P. Stoeckinger; re-recording mixers, Mike Prestwood Smith, Michael Keller; visual effects supervisor, Christopher Townsend; visual effects, Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Scanline VFX, Trixter, Framestore, Method Studios, Cinesite Limited, Cantina Creative, Prologue, Fuel VFX, Luma Pictures, the Embassy, Capital T, Lola, Rise FX; stunt coordinators, Markos Rounthwaite, Jeff Habberstad; assistant director, Lars P. Winther; second unit director, Brian Smrz; casting, Sarah Halley Finn.

With: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Broussard, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany.

More Film

  • Worst movies 2019

    The Worst Films of 2019

    Keep in mind that we haven’t seen “Cats.” Or a single one of the half-dozen Nicolas Cage movies released “on demand” (to zero demand?) this past year. Still, in the ongoing quest to find the next masterpiece, film critics inevitably have to sit through a lot more turkeys than your typical moviegoer. Rather than let [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    'Frozen 2' Still Sizzling With $37 Million in Third Weekend; 'Playmobil' Crashing

    “Frozen 2” is gradually warming up the North American box office, with an estimated $37 million its third weekend at 4,440 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Disney’s animated sequel is projected to decline about 57%. Should estimates hold, “Frozen 2” should finish the weekend with nearly $340 million domestically in it first 17 days. With [...]

  • Legendary Logo

    Legendary Invests in Library Pictures to Fund Local-Language Production

    Legendary Pictures has made an investment in Library Pictures International with plans to fund local-language productions. Library Pictures is a content-financing entity organized earlier this year by CAA Media Finance to support industry-leading filmmakers and distributors by investing in local-language production slates. As part of the deal, Legendary becomes part of a team at Library [...]

  • Knives and Skin

    Film Review: 'Knives and Skin'

    Jennifer Reeder’s “Knives and Skin” will test the limits of viewer patience. The positive qualities lie in the surrealistic film’s bold cinematography, distinctive use of music, and diversity of cast, though that’s not enough to redeem this tedious viewing experience. Following a festival run that began at the Berlinale, IFC Midnight is giving the film [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Women In Animation Celebrate a Banner Year

    When “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner began her career in the early 1990s, fresh out of college, she had a goal: Get a job working on a film set that didn’t involve doing craft service. Because, she says “as women, they were always kind of either intentionally or unintentionally pointing you in that direction.” After [...]

  • Laura DernIFP Gotham Awards 2019 -

    Palm Springs Festival to Honor Laura Dern With Career Achievement Award (EXCLUSIVE)

    The 31st annual Palm Springs International Film Festival has selected Laura Dern as the recipient of its Career Achievement Award. Dern will be honored at the festival awards gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival runs Jan. 2-13. “Laura Dern is one of the most outstanding and talented actresses of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content