Iron Man 3

What It Is

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is once again feeling anxious as Iron Man 3 begins. As much as he enjoys being Iron Man, which is to say, being a celebrity, commercial product, and superhero, he’s also worried that the suit is yet imperfect, as is his commitment to Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), longtime girlfriend and CEO of his company, Stark Industries. Now that they’re living together fulltime, in a gigantic house on a cliff over the Malibu surf, he’s worried. He can’t say why exactly, but he does show symptoms of trauma, presumably owing to the considerable beatings he took in The Avengers.

As he twitches, frets, can’t sleep, and indulges in a ridiculous bout of jealousy, Tony is supported by the monumentally understanding Pepper. She’s not happy that he’s spending his sleepless nights in the basement with the machines he uses to build more and more Iron Man suits (housed in glass cases like multiple museum displays of himself) and the sentient armor software called Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany), but she’s willing to put up with it. At least, until Tony publicizes his home address to the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist who makes videos for TV and regularly threatens to come after Iron Man. At that point, she insists they take time away, but wouldn’t you know, it’s exactly then that the Mandarin sends a squad of killers in helicopters to blow Stark’s home off the earth.

Pepper survives, along with one of Tony’s former flings, a botanist named Maya (Rebecca Hall). She’s important here because she’s devised a virus, called Extremis, that has been put to use by extremists (including, apparently, the Mandarin) that helps victims of bodily trauma (loss of limbs, for example), regenerate, but also turns them into walking bombs. Unhappy that her work has been turned into this sort of technology, Maya seeks to right the wrong, though her route to that end is rather circuitous.

Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), the man who’s used her work toward this bad end, is clearer about what he wants to do, that is, to wreak supervillainish havoc. In pursuit of both Killian and the Mandarin, Tony takes one of his now depleted suits to backwoods North Carolina, where he meets a little boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), who happens to be an Iron Man fan and also a nerdy kid with a workshop where Tony can repair the suit. This proves invaluable, of course, as Tony will have to become Iron Man again, in league with his buddy Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) as Iron Patriot, in order to defeat Killian and the Mandarin. The movie leaves young Harley behind once it launches into full-on climactic machine-battles, which is too bad, because he’s the most convincing and charismatic of Tony’s non-superfriends. Tony, at least, remembers Harley at the end, with a note and a gift. Perhaps Tony Stark is not so cynical as he likes to pretend.

Why It’s Fun

Robert Downey, Jr. brings his usual snarky, rapid-fire delivery to his characterization of Tony’s combination of arrogance and angst. In this film, Harley provides the most able comebacks of all the other characters, and the duo, for the few minutes they share on screen, are at once funny, heartwarming, and witty.

The movie is big and colorful and very action. The 3D hardly seems exceptional, except to say that it doesn’t distract from any of the aspects.

The multiple plots and subplots might be understood to provide most everyone in the audience with something to like, though the sheer number of them is also a bit exhausting.

Who’s Going To Love It

Marvel Comics franchise fans will be pleased that the film is as noisy and cluttered with plots as any in the Marvel Comics universe, including The Avengers, which featured many superheroes as opposed to one. (These same fans may want to wait for the post-final-credits scene, comprised on Tony Stark with one of his S.H.I.E.L.D. compatriots, a moment that makes clear that, for all the rambunctious action in the these movies, talky interactions between actors can be just as fun.)

Robert Downey, Jr. fans will be happy to see him do what he has done before.

Viewers looking for hopeful girls’ images might be disappointed. Maya makes a series of bad decisions, and for most of the movie, Pepper needs to be rescued. When she is more or less forced into her own version of heroic action — made physically powerful after being infected with the Extremis virus — she’s also, still, in need of saving, having also turned into... a walking bomb.

What To Be Aware Of

The film is filled with loud, explosive action, bodies slammed into walls, pitched off cliffs, bloodied and injured, in one-on-one fights, gun battles, missile offensives, fights between warriors in suits, assaults by killers who can blow themselves up, and bombings that emulate terrorist attacks.

Amid all the action, film poses several broadly political questions that may be worth addressing with mid-teen and older teen viewers.

First, As much as the Extremis virus serves as a metaphor for the extremist indoctrination that convinces individuals to become suicide bombers, it suggests that such action is not so much voluntary as it is, well, indoctrinated.

Second, Tony’s private army of Iron Man suits resemble drones, in the sense that they are a squad of flying, unmanned weapons. While he puts them to use saving himself, Pepper, Rhodey, and the American president (William Sadler), the point is made that some suits (Rhodey’s, for example) can be hijacked and so, used by the bad guys. Beware advancing technologies.

Third, Tony’s ongoing personal struggle with the effects of bodily trauma raises the specter that while superheroic powers might assuage some feelings of fear, anger, or even guilt, these are afforded to precious few of us. In lieu of such powers, we might consider more immediate, practical ways to cope with trauma.

And fourth, Tony notes at film’s start, “We make our own demons.” That Killian is a demon created in part by Tony’s cruel and selfish treatment of him suggests that individuals and groups (like nations) might beware how they treat others, because victims can seek vengeance.

One of the villains appears drinking and drunk. He also appears to have been in bed with two women, both scantily clad and swiftly frightened sent from the room.

This same villain takes a trip to the toilet that becomes a brief running joke, concerning the stink he leaves behind.

Some language, mostly muttered by Tony Stark, including his advice to his young boy helper, Harley, “Dads leave; there’s no need to be a pussy about it.” Other language includes “bloody hell,” “damn” and “I’ll be damned,” and “screw it.”

See-It-Again Points

7 out of 10

Film Information

Iron Man 3
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle
Studio: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
Year: 2013
Rated: PG-13
US General Release: May 3, 2013
UK General Release: April 25, 2013
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures

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