May 9, 2013

'Iron Man 3' slick, smart


---- — Following the epic success of “The Avengers,” the next affiliated movie to hit the screen was almost guaranteed to be a box-office success, no matter what.

“Iron Man 3,” though, also happens to be a pretty good movie.

A clear upgrade from the hollow “Iron Man 2,” the third film in the series brings us a billionaire/industrialist/superhero Tony Stark, who is damaged.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Stark is still haunted by the events of “The Avengers.” He can’t sleep, and he can’t stop tinkering with the Iron Man suit, which he has just equipped with a somewhat flawed remote-control function.

Directed by “Lethal Weapon” veteran Shane Black, “Iron Man 3” isn’t just about rocket-powered suits that fire beams out of their hands. There is plenty of action, some well-done battles and a lot of good CGI, but Stark is also forced to confront his human frailties, and he spends much of the movie outside of his protective suit.

The bad guys this time around are a disgruntled genetic engineer (Guy Pearce) shunned by Stark in the past and a mysterious terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who is responsible for a number of tragic bombings and threatens much, much more.

Downey works with his familiar cohorts, girlfriend and CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and military pal Col. James Rhodes, who gained his own superhero creds as the similarly suited War Machine. There is no Thor, however, no Hulk, no SHIELD, not even with the president of the United States threatened.

The best interactions in the film are Downey’s sarcastic sparring sessions with young Ty Simpkins’s (“Insidious”) Harley, a manipulative rural kid who provides Iron Man with some crucial moral and material assistance.

“Iron Man 3” has plenty of action, and Black makes sure that Downey has a steady stream of clever one-liners. The film is slick, smart and amusing. More than suitable as the first blockbuster of the season.

Rental Recommendation: Director Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. teamed up previously in the funny film noir “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Grade: A-

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"Iron Man 3"

Grade: B+

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce

Rated: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content)

Running time: 130 minutes