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Thursday, May 9, 2013 09:01 am

Iron Man 3 a clunky debut for Marvel’s second phase

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Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in Iron Man 3.

Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 has the unenviable task of following Joss Whedon’s widely entertaining The Avengers as the next Marvel Studios movie out of the chute. Too bad that Iron Man 3 gets the company’s second phase off to a bad start. Illogical, scattered and underdeveloped, the film plays like a rush job, littered with glaring lapses while it lacks any sense of cohesion. Black spends far too much time on Tony Stark’s latest crisis of conscience, and squanders potentially intriguing subplots involving other characters. The result is a film that sputters and at times stalls, never really kicking into high gear despite having all the toys to do so at its disposal.

Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the alien crisis in The Avengers, as well as a crippled ego having convinced himself that after dealing with alternate dimensions and beings from another planet, that what he’s capable of is small potatoes in comparison. He continues to tinker obsessively with his Iron Man armor and is in a fragile state of mind when the U.S. comes under attack by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a terrorist who can strike at will within our borders. This becomes personal for Stark when his bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) is injured in one of these attacks causing the sleep-deprived billionaire to issue an invitation to the madman that he eagerly accepts.

Meanwhile, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is running Stark Industries and has been approached by an old colleague, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in the hopes the corporation will help finance one of his inventions. His Project Extremis is a technique that essentially allows the brain to be rewired, a process that potentially offers up as many positive uses as bad. Potts recognizes this and sends Killian packing, setting up a chain reaction of events that finds Stark exiled and without a home and, as a result leaves the country vulnerable to the Mandarin’s attacks.

All of this takes far too long to establish. Black’s sense of pacing is ill-suited for a film such as this. Obviously, Stark’s existential angst should be the focal point, but potentially intriguing subplots are treated as obligations he has to refer to from time to time rather than being fleshed out to make a more balanced film. However, the thing that dooms the film – it doesn’t follow its own logic. One of the modifications Stark makes is that he injects himself with a form of nanotechnology that allows him to call the armor to him from a remote location. This is pretty cool, however the suit is able to do the same thing with Potts and Killian though they haven’t been injected. Also bothersome is the lack of explanation as to what Killian’s minions are capable of and what logic is behind the nuclear powers they wield. And while this may seem nitpicky, the issue of the Avengers is never addressed. The Mandarin poses a national threat. Are you telling me the president wouldn’t have called in at least Captain America and S.H.E.I.L.D. to assist Stark in this matter? You simply can’t introduce those characters into Stark’s world and then pretend they don’t exist. If Marvel insists on integrating these films, underscoring that all of these characters rub shoulders with one another, this issue must be addressed every time out or the whole enterprise loses credibility.

The final scene does open up the franchise to new possibilities and in the right hands could be an intriguing take on the superhero genre. However, I think that audiences were spoiled by The Avengers and it’s going to take some sort of screenwriting magic to satisfy viewers with a film focusing on one superhero after seeing them interact with one other, especially one as poorly executed as Iron Man 3.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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