Rating: 4.5 Shurikens
I waited a long time for this movie. Robert Downey, Jr. reprises his role from two previous Iron Man movies and The Avengers. He plays the role of Tony Stark, the man inside the armor, with an incredible familiarity. At this point, Tony Stark IS Robert Downy, Jr. He practically owns the character. Tony Stark is the hero much more than Iron Man, much like a James Bond movie.
Gwineth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark's girlfriend and confidant, pretty much the female lead from all Iron man, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers. Don Cheadle is Colonel Rhodes, Stark's liaison with the Military, which is a big customer of Stark Industries. Rhodes is also the Goverment's own version of Iron Man, the Iron Patriot, formerly known as War Machine. Cheadle was in Iron Man 2 as the replacement for Cuba Gooding, Jr, who was Colonel Rhodes in the the first Iron Man.
A few new characters are introduced, such as The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley. This Mandarin is really not the one that was in the comic books that I used to read as a kid. In this movie, he is a terrorist leader who really has nothing to do with China, while the original comic book version of The Mandarin was a Chinese villain working for the Communists back in the days of the Cold War. I was glad that Kingsley was cast in the role, as I am a pretty big admirer of his previous works, most of which have nothing to do with comics or sci-fi.
The story begins at New Years of 2000, with a girl that Tony Stark meets at a New Year's party of 2000, in a city in Switzerland. This girl is Maya Hansen, played by Rebecca Hall, an actress with some screen experience, but not one that I have ever seen before. She is a scientist who has developed a technique for regenerating plant tissues. Tony has a bodyguard, Happy Hogan, who is played by John Favreau. Favreau is the director of the movie, and also has played Happy Hogan in the previous Iron Man movies. He also was the director of both previous Iron Man films, and also Cowboys and Aliens, and he played Foggy Nelson in Daredevil.
That same evening, Tony meets another man in the elevator, Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, who was last seen in Prometheus, and starred in a few other notable movies, like The Road, the dark post-apocalyptic film from a few years back, and the 2002 version of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which he starred in. Aldrich has some ideas, and is starting a company called Advanced Idea Mechanics, AIM, which is based on a classic Marvel Comics brand, featured in several early Marvel titles like S.H.I.E.L.D. and of course the Iron Man comic book. Aldrich wants to discuss them with Tony, and Tony promises to meet with him, but Tony leaves him hanging because he is otherwise occupied with the lovely Maya.
The story jumps to the present day, when the Mandarin is in charge of a terrorist organization, and manages to hijack the television signals of the entire world to promulgate threats and warnings of terrorist attacks, based on suicide bombings. Meanwhile, Aldrich Killian appears at Stark Industries HQ, to meet with Pepper Potts, who apparently shares some history with him. He is accompanied by an employee, a very malevolent-looking character named Savin, played by James Badge Dale. Happy Hogan notices Savin, and follows him to a Chinese theater. There, he experiences a suicide bomber, but it isn't what you expect.
After Happy is injured in an explosion, Tony challenges the Mandarin on TV, and the Mandarin retaliates by destroying Tony's mansion on the coast. Tony escapes in his latest suit, but is presumed dead. Interestingly, the attack on Tony's house is coordinated by Savin, who is seen in one of the helicopters, revealing a sinister connection between Killian, AIM and the Mandarin.
Most of the movie takes place during December, right around Christmas. This is kind of odd for a movie that is released to theaters in May. I blame marketing for this. I predict that the video will be made available during the waning days of November, along with a whole bunch of new Iron Man Merchandise. Kids who watch Iron Man 3 on Christmas Morning will get to play with all of their nice new Iron Man Toys, while wearing their snappy new Iron Man PJ's. I don't object too much, because I want comic book movies to make lots of money so that they will keep being made. I buy Iron Man and Thor toys myself. But I digress...
Iron Man 3 is long, at 2 hours, 10 minutes but it never gets laborious, and manages to entertain the whole way through. The climax of the movie features a lot of action, almost to the point of excess. One of the poorest comic book movies I have ever seen was Spider Man 3. They threw everything in there at once: Sandman, Venom,
I have a few complaints, but I don't do spoilers, so I will keep them to myself, for the most part. One thing I will say is that the Mandarin character is completely wasted for this particular continuity, although it probably doesn't matter, since there will likely not be any more Iron Man movies past the next Avengers. Another thing is that the armor has become something more like the Transformers than I would like to see. This was actually evident in the first couple of movies, where the armor unfolds itself way too much for the apparent mass and volume that it fills beforehand. I basically overlook all of these factors while watching the movie, and I fully enjoyed this movie. The little nagging things don't come for a day or two afterwards.
Tony Stark is a very likable guy, and it is fun to watch him in action. A lot of this movie is about Tony Stark, and he spends a lot of time outside of his armor. Ben Kingsley is a heck of an actor, and the way he unfolds his character is quite enjoyable. Even though The Mandarin is not what you expect him to be, it is very entertaining to watch. There is quite a bit of humor in the movie, and some really good laughs at that. The humor is wound into the story, but not in such a way as to make it seem campy. This is a comic book movie after all, and the word comic once referred to humor.
I definitely recommend seeing this in the theater.The experience is way too big to wait for the first time to be on a small screen. I don't mean to disparage home theater systems, but there is a distinct advantage to seeing this in a theater. I give it 4.5 Shurikens, for action, humor and long-lasting entertainment, not quite 5 because of some of the elements of the later parts of the movie which you will have to see for yourself.