Director: Shane Black
Studio: Marvel Studios
Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce
Do not, repeat, do not skip seeing the third Marvel superhero epic featuring Robert Downey Jr. as the man in the can. We understand the hesitation some might feel right about now. We’re here to help those of you who might be resistant because you have an early case of that summer malady known as Franchise and Sequel Fatigue. We hear those of you who may be tired of the star’s self-amusement, sardonic mumbling and preening. Don’t let that—or anything else —stop you, though, because if you do, you’re going to miss the wittiest, most inventive and enjoyable movie of the trio so far. It’s directed by Shane Black (screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, director of the woefully undersung Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and cowritten by Black and Drew Pearce (Brit TV’s scathingly funny superhero sendup No Heroics). The spoofy, absurdist writing duo, who partially based the movie on the Extremis comic in which global terrorist The Mandarin (played brilliantly here by Ben Kingsley) and scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, having a ball) team up to unleash a mighty Extremis army, have not turned this one into a genre benchmark the way Joss Whedon did with The Avengers. In fact, there’s a strong chance that Iron Man 3’s devilishly winking tone, its shrugged-off, messy action sequences and some of the plot twists may have purists ready to hoist torches and pitchforks. But after the bloat and bluster of Iron Man 2, its successor pops with energy, emotion and freshness enough to suggest that Phase Two of the Marvel franchise is off to a roaring start. The whole thing rises or falls on Downey Jr., who, as the filthy rich playboy/industrialist Tony Stark, is sensational—dashing, funny, alive and worth every red cent of the truckload of money the studio should offer him to make sure this isn’t his last screen outing in the role. He and gal-in-jeopardy Gwyneth Paltrow, also good, spark great chemistry, and, although a subplot that pairs Downey Jr. with a kid threatens to get stuck in Spielbergian goo instead, it’s tart, sharp and a pure delight. Don Cheadle is a lot of fun as Iron Patriot, Rebecca Hall is classy and crisp as an Iron Man girlfriend and the whole cast appears to be jazzed and up for a good time. If this is Downey’s send-off, he’s ending his stint on a high note. We have a sneaking suspicion he’s done neither with having a snarky blast with his career-defining role nor with sharing his gusto with us, the audience. Whatever it takes to lure back Black and Pearce for a follow-up, the powers that be need to get that done. By the way, the movie is too long, you definitely don’t need to see it in 3-D but you do need to hang around for the very last moment of the credits.