They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but have you tried scorning a tech geek lately? Tony Stark did it years ago, and it comes back to bite him—and the President of the United States—in “Iron Man 3,” which puts the POP in popcorn movie, big-time.
There’s as much action here as there are dry and acerbic one-liners from Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), whose Larry David-like self-absorption and lack of warmth adds a welcome veneer of comedy to the fireballs, explosions, and special-effect battles. With each “I don’t care” comeback of his you can almost see the words arranging themselves in thought balloons on the screen in true comic-book fashion.
Co-written and directed by Shane Black, who penned all four “Lethal Weapon” films, “Iron Man 3” soars above the first sequel and might even rival the 2008 debut for overall entertainment value. You laugh, you sit on the edge of your seat, and you marvel (yes, marvel) at some of the visual effects—especially the attack on Stark’s cliffside mansion, an airplane disaster, and scenes involving explosive, firelit, lava-fleshed humans called “Extremis.”
This outing, Stark, who experiences occasional Tony Soprano-like panic attacks, has constructed dozens of Iron Man suits and has been working on a prototype for his own suit so that the flex of an arm commands the pieces to come to him. In the field, still operating an old suit dubbed “War Machine," is Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). The villain is a terrorist who addresses the world on TV—someone who calls himself The Mandarin, played with tongue-in-cheek menace by Ben Kingsley, who seems to have drawn inspiration from Ming the Merciless on the old “Flash Gordon” serials. Is Iron Man up to the task of stopping someone with such a sophisticated tech side and more minions than “Despicable Me”’s Gru?
Add Stark’s continued relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, who gets to wear the suit this outing), a female scientist and geek (Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce) who’ve discovered a way to regenerate human body parts, and a Tennessee boy (Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener) who wants to be Iron Man’s sidekick, and the franchise has another winning formula. The kid/hero pairing we’ve seen before in such films as “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” but the writers seem to sense that too much cute kid can intrude on the overall tone of the film, and they restrain themselves (or rather, the kid). It’s yet another example of how the filmmakers’ instincts save the day almost as much as Iron Man.
In his theatrical review, Movie Met’s William Lee called it “a fun and vibrant tentpole release bolstered by an exceptionally heroic score from Brian Tyler,” and I’d have to agree that Tyler’s soundtrack does what a score is supposed to do: fuse itself to each moment and blend in so well that you hardly notice it apart from the visuals and narrative action. Everything seems to have its place, and the contributions add up to more than the individual pieces. That, ultimately, is what makes a film successful. The runtime is 130 minutes, but this stylish sequel doesn’t feel that long.
“Iron Man 3” is rated PG-13 for “sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
The video appears to be presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, transferred to a 50GB disc via an AVC/MPEG-4 encode. In a special effects film you’re always looking carefully at the effects to see how the magic is made, and there are no giveaways here. Despite a sharp picture with plenty of detail and only a hint of filmic grain, the technical wizardry remains hidden. “Iron Man 3” is a slickly made film that LOOKS slick but not artificially so. Colors are situationally bright or somber, skin tones are accurate, and those Extremis creatures are darned fun to watch in HD. It’s a great-looking picture that’s slick and stylish.
The featured audio is an English DTS-HD MA 7.1 that really courses through the sound field with power and authority—and yet the dialogue isn’t so far removed at the other end of the loudness spectrum that you have to keep going back and forth on the remote. Blasts and crashes come alive with directional noise that cuts across the room, and all the speakers get a pretty intense workout. Additional audio options are English 2.0 Descriptive Video, French 71 DTS-HD High Resolution, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
At Movie Met, our practice is to review final product only—that which our readers will buy online or in stores. But we’ve made an exception this time and agreed to review a promo disc from the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack in order to let you know as soon as possible how this title stacks up. And in the world of bonus features, it doesn’t stand very tall. There’s a slow-to-build 15-minute short feature, “Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter,” starring Hayley Atwell as Special Agent Peggy Carter on a “case” that’s meant to lead into the storyline of Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Then there are 17 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, a five-minute gag reel, and an above-average commentary track by writer-director Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce.
The only other bonus features are a promo for “Thor: The Dark World” and two featurettes: Marvel’s Iron Man 3 Unmasked (11 min.) and Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force 1.” “Unmasked” is a slickly edited featurette that includes a lot of behind-the-scenes filming footage and ends with footage of the premiere Red Carpet. “Deconstructing” shows how they first attempted the scene using green screen but then went to an actual airplane and performed more than 600 parachute jumps and 500 hidden parachute jumps en route to filming in the air and relying on wire work for the landing. It’s all pretty fascinating, but all too brief.
Robert Downey, Jr. makes Iron Man one of the most entertaining superheroes in the Marvel movie universe. He “gets” his character, and seems totally in synch with the director’s vision for the film. “Iron Man 3” is easily better than “Iron Man 2,” and because it’s not burdened with the informational origin story build-up of the 2008 debut film, some fans may even think it the best of the three. Then again, your feeling about this sequel may well depend upon how you react to a pretty big twist—and you’ll get no spoiler hints from me!