As a fan of the Iron Man franchise, Iron Man 3 both delighted and disappointed me. As always Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts are beyond amazing in their ability to portray those characters. Unfortunately at times their dialogue created some story and character challenges that gave them less to work with than earlier films in the franchise. For example, although a more matured relationship was intentionally built into the story line and therefore in some ways necessitated changes, the movie had difficulty capturing a the same spark that existed in earlier films within that new relationship framework. It wasn’t until the end of the film when Pepper get’s her chance to flex her muscles that we got to see a little bit of that again. The moments that followed gave us a small taste of the fiery and awkwardly loveable interactions that had me spellbound in the first two films.
What the movie lost in these central characters it gained in some amazing new ones. From the moment his character showed up, Ty Simpkins stole the screen as Harley Keener. This was in large part because of his acting prowess (the little guy nailed his role and then some), but was also because his role was one of the better written roles in the film. Although not a romantic one like Pepper/Stark, the relationship between Harley and Stark became a surrogate for the one we had grown to love between Stark and Potts in earlier films. Interestingly, and I believe not coincidentally, it was at this point that the movie started to gain some momentum. It was very fortunate that the franchise was able to find Ty Simpkins who was able to fully portray the strong willed, intelligent, lovable, and completely in control child Potts alternate who was able to stand his own ground and by so doing be an equal character to Stark in all respects. Then there was Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. I came to the film expecting a lot from Kingsley and I’m reluctant to admit that at first I was disappointed in his role. That was fully reversed when the other side of his character was revealed (and I speak somewhat cryptically here to prevent spoilers). From that point on, and retroactively back to earlier moments in the film, I was amazed at the talent and versatility he continually brings to his roles to total amazement of the audience. Despite my high expectations, Kingsley delivered a performance that exceeded on all counts.
In terms of story, the movie got off to a reluctant start with a long period of slow and tedious laying of the groundwork of the film. Even the destruction of Stark manor full of CGI and special effects (the scene that was all over the movie trailers) failed to captivate. It felt like a contrived story plot point and building block used to set the stage for the rest of the movie. The addition of voice-over narration by the Stark character at the beginning and end of the film was distracting and showed little faith in the audiences ability to understand what it was seeing. Perhaps it was used to help us see deeper into the Stark character but I felt it jarring and believe the film should have used other means to help us see deeper. Other attempts to make Stark more human through stereotypes of mental and emotional weakness were also laid early in the film but were not successfully used as obstacles to attaining his end goal and so were less effective as character traits. Once the story got on its legs though it used the story groundwork it laid well, most importantly the apparent loss of most of Stark’s lab and “toys”. I enjoyed the action and comedic story components of the film from that point forward. Specifically, the defeat of the villain was likely one of the most satisfying you will ever see in an action movie.
In addition to some tremendous villian performance by James Badge Dale and Stephanie Szostak, very respectable performances were given by Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, and the heard but not seen Paul Bettany (as Jarvis).
If you enjoy the Iron Man franchise then Iron Man 3 is one not to be missed. There is plenty for die-hard fans to love and newcomers as well. All-in-all it is a solid movie and I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.