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By Shane M. Dallmann

IRON MAN 3

After the traumatic events of THE AVENGERS, Tony Stark is subject to unpredictable anxiety attacks and is once again contemplating just what his role in the world (and his relationship with Pepper Potts) constitutes. He’s also rudely reminded of long-dismissed turn-of-the-century events because the people he dismissed during New Year’s Eve of 1999 have resurfaced to raise hell in the present. Chief among them are “think tank” genius Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and his employee Maya (Rebecca Hall). Might they have ties to the mysterious Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who’s been taking credit for a new spree of terrorism (including the bombing of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre)?

Tony/Iron Man hasn’t been asked to deal with this new threat (as the personally-threatened President believes that Don Cheadle as the newly-rechristened “Iron Patriot” will get the job done, but goaded beyond tolerance, Tony snaps and recklessly invites the Mandarin to meet him face to face, forgetting to consider whom else he might be drawing into the crossfire. And somewhere along the way he acquires a cute kid as a sidekick. (Uh-oh.)

IRON MAN THREE (despite the ads, that’s how the title is actually spelled in the credits) essentially plays by the numbers as written/directed by Shane Black; and while those numbers remain adequate for a modern superhero adventure (you’ll get plenty of action, spectacle and the wisecracks of Robert Downey, Jr.), there simply isn’t anything here to raise this effort up into something truly special (as was the original IRON MAN, not so much the second entry). Large, clarifying sections of the script seem to have gone missing (just why Maya thinks her survival is crucial to the plot poses just one unanswered question) along with several moments seen countless times in the trailer.

Then there’s the Mandarin. Classic comic fans are in an uproar over the treatment of Iron Man’s original super-foe, but I’ve got to say this much: this is pretty much the only way that the filmmakers could USE the Mandarin today without resurrecting the eternal “Fu Manchu” controversies and obliging themselves to defend themselves from accusations of non-PC behavior. It must also be said that Kingsley is excellent in the menacing role, but once he’s unmasked… well, you’ve seen more than enough, but you’re going to get more anyway.

There ARE a couple of terrific scenes: when Air Force One disgorges its passengers in mid-air, the ensuing rescue attempt fully earns the cheers it receives (and yes, those who stick it out through the end credits will enjoy their reward).

But if you want an example of how the film FAILS to work? There’s what’s meant to be a devastating crisis point during the climax (which, among other things, rehashes THE TERMINATOR yet again): as awful as BAMBI, that sort of thing. And the same crowd that cheered the previous sequence didn’t react at all. Because nobody BOUGHT it for a minute. Because it’s been done to “death.” Not even the MOVIE believed it, as it went for a laugh yet again BEFORE the inevitable resolution of the crisis.

By the numbers.

P.S.: I don’t believe that I missed out on anything by seeing this in good old 2-D.

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