Iron Man (Rated PG-13) 5 Stars05-22-13-movie.gif

Iron Man 2 sort of sucked compared to Iron Man. Luckily, Iron Man 3 (130 minutes) manages to avoid the near in-evitable diminishing returns that afflicts several popular Marvel movie franchises (seriously, go watch Spiderman 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand: there was a one in three chance this movie was going to be unwatchable). Director/co-writer Shane Black replaces Jon Favreau and does a heckuva job channeling his 80s action cre-dentials into the superhero format. In fact, if you’re ever looking for an undiscovered movie to watch on Saturday night, go rent his directorial debut (starring Robert Downey, Jr.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Black manages to get Downey, Jr. to enunciate his lines, provides Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) with a brief, shining moment of feminist agency, and throws in a plot twist that even die-hard Marvel fans (such as myself) did not see coming.

The film begins in the middle of some serious explosions with a Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) voice-over. For those of you interested in movie trivia, this is al-most the exact same way Shane Black began Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — in the middle of the action with Downey, Jr. interrupting his own voice-over to take the audience back to an even earlier point in the story. Narratively speaking I like the device because it lets us know that however innocently the story begins it is leading to something explosively big.

In this case, we are taken all the way back to 1999, while Stark reminisces about some of his playboy behavior. He hooked up, humiliated a passerby, solved a science problem, and took off free and clear all in a single night. One of the really cool things about Downey Jr.’s approach to this character is the way he manages to convey the brilliance/arrogance of the character in little scenes like this one. Stark is a bit of a bully only because he is completely impatient with those who aren’t as smart/obsessive as he is (almost everybody). He is not purposely cruel, but he is unthinkingly cruel because it generally does not occur to him that other people are real and are affected by his actions.

So, when he sends Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) to wait on a cold roof for a meeting that will never happen, or when he treats Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) as a one-night stand he is behaving per-fectly in character, not realizing (or not caring) that his actions have long term consequences for other people. Since he routinely treats other people as insignifi-cant bystanders to his starring role there are bound to be at least one or two people feeling alienated by him that also have as-pirations towards super villainy.

Anyway, Stark continues to tell his story. Post-Avengers, Iron Man is feeling a bit of anxiety. He isn’t sleeping and his insistence on recovering from his alien invasion induced PTSD by tinkering with model after model of the Iron Man suit is driving a wedge between him and his number one babe, Pepper.

When Stark Industries security chief Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is badly injured during what appears to be a ter-rorist attack at Mann’s Chinese Theater, Stark rashly issues a direct challenge to the mysterious Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). Of course, when you dare a super villain to come and get you they generally try to wipe you off the face of the Earth, so it sur-prises no one when the Mandarin’s forces blow up Stark’s mansion. This leads to the second half of the film, during which Iron Man is stuck without a reliable suit, forced to rely on a malfunctioning prototype and a precocious kid (Ty Simpkins) who I re-ally could have done without.

All things considered kudos to Shane Black for getting Iron Man out of his Iron Man suit for most of the film. This is a su-perhero movie, but it is also a movie about a superhero’s psychological vulnerability.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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