Iron Man 3 (a film review by Frank Ochieng).

Well, everybody’s favorite Marvel Comics metal-head is back in the fold while combining action, aerodynamics and angst in the explosive yet slightly uneven ‘Iron Man 3′. Most ardent fans of the comicbook capitalist super-hero will appreciate the further antics of the high-flying and adventurous billionaire Tony Stark and his conflicted heroic alter ego. ‘Iron Man 3′ will predictably generate the box office enthusiasm and follow in the footsteps of the other contemporary superhero trilogies (i.e. ‘Spider-Man’, ‘Superman’, ‘Batman’, etc.) that marched on to their continued chronicles of crime-fighting under the umbrella of blockbuster bliss.

IRON MAN...a true and blue metal head that really rocks!
IRON MAN…a true and blue metal head that really rocks!

There is an interesting contrast in the ‘Iron Man’ movie series that is quite noticeable. Director-actor Jon Favreau delivered the previous installments that catered to the traditional universe of Marvel’s treatment for the celebrated, soul-searching industrialist. However, writer-director Shane Black (who directed ‘Iron Man’ leading man Robert Downey, Jr. in ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ years ago) decides to channel his ‘Iron Man’ exploits in the buddy action-packed mode that caters to his style of actioners he has scribed for in the past (for example, 1987’s excitable and off-the-wall ‘Lethal Weapon’).

The perception behind ‘Iron Man 3′ begs for the immediate comparison to its predecessors. The first film was audacious and well-packed while the follow-up in 2010’s ‘Iron Man 2′ was less than stellar in terms of its execution. Basically, ‘Iron Man 3′ falls in the middle. On one hand, it has the welcomed familiar flair of hubris—splashy explosions, eye-popping 3-D special effects, snappy dialogue and the charismatic flippancy of movie lead Downey. On the other hand, ‘Iron Man 3′ is blindly following the omnipresent trend of by-the-numbers, larger-than-life super-powered problematic protagonists trapped in self-doubt within the confines of manufactured mayhem.

For the most part, ‘Iron Man 3′ is effectively realised courtesy of the eccentric glibness of Downey’s colourful turn as the confrontational planet-saving, chrome-plated cad. Black pushes the right frenetic buttons and spices up the formula that percolates this cagey comic book caper. There is enough sizzle to uplift the saucy ‘Iron Man 3’ for the summertime sensibilities in 2013.

As the ultra-cool, yet neurotic wealthy inventor-turned-super-hero extraordinaire, Tony Stark/Iron Man has a lot of psychological heavy baggage on his mind. Still licking his weary wounds from helping to save the world from the dreaded threats of bombs and aliens in last year’s ‘The Avengers’, Stark now looms in uncertainty. He is under tremendous pressure as his affectionate bond with galpal Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is rocky at best. The workaholic Stark is preoccupied as he surrounds himself around an assembled team of Iron Man robots ready to perform upon his command. A trusty computerised sidekick Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) figures into Stark’s companionship plans.

The hits keep on coming for Stark as both his past and present-day obstacles insist on haunting him at will. For his yesteryear conflicts, New Year’s Eve 1999 will find Stark dealing with a couple of precarious personalities that will re-enter his life later on in his current existence. First, there is a brief intimate hook up with a pretty botanist Maya (Rebecca Hall) whose DNA research with plants will prove to be toxic. Secondly, Stark meets and shows indifference to spastic scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who has his own ambitious DNA-oriented agenda with living organisms that are deemed radical.

The government taps Stark/Iron Man on the shoulders when his assistance is needed to combat the latest treacherous scoundrel in the villainous Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). He is an actual Iron Man comicbook villain and a diehard America-hating bad guy who promises that his heinous terrorist attacks will be prominently fierce and furious. The Mandarin’s psychotic urge to assault America with violent bombings takes on a personal toll when Stark’s Malibu home and treasured belongings are destroyed. Additionally, Stark’s security chief, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), flirts with death in the random blasts perpetrated by The Mandarin’s henchmen.

‘Iron Man 3’ distributes a decent amount of contemplation, chaos and carefree action-oriented sequences to energise the audiences with its rollicking rhythms. The genuine metal part that shines on ‘Iron Man 3′ is its centerpiece in the flippant tongue of Downey’s Tony Stark that balances his brooding demeanor with bouncy quips and quick-footed swagger. The wisecracks register with sharpness while adding entertaining padding to the mind-bending action and on-going tension. Black skillfully uses his greatest tool — Downey — to fuel ‘Iron Man 3’s escapist wit. Sure, the tongue-and-cheek flourishes can be overwrought at times but Black pushes the movie with relished frivolity.

The script is keenly generous to the supporting players along for the raucous ride. From Stark’s main squeeze Pepper Potts to Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), the various characters are instrumental in taking part of the festivities and even get to don the Iron Man attire in the cause for the better good. Kingsley’s Mandarin is inspired in madness as a detestable Osama bin Laden knock-off to be hissed at for his animated carnage. In a moment of poignancy, a Tennessee-based tyke named Harley (Ty Simpkins) befriends, shelters and doctors the worn-and-torn Iron Man during his lengthy adversity.

The technology talk is tossed about here and there and the big scale explosions are left to the empty imagination. Some rust may be found in this third outing of ‘Iron Man 3’s boisterous presentation but it still carries a delightful charge in the metal man’s resilient armor.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Walt Disney Pictures

2 hrs. 15 mins.

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany

Directed by: Shane Black

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventure/Comic Book Fantasy

Critic’s Rating: ** ½ stars (out of 4 stars)


Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

2 thoughts on “Iron Man 3 (a film review by Frank Ochieng).

  • I enjoyed this more than Iron Man 2. It was a better balance between action and humour. Do you think the fact that Stark spent very little time actually in the suits means this might be the last one for a while, or will the Iron Man series be taken into a new direction where Stark is more of a mastermind/Nick Fury character rather than getting his hands dirty?

    I was also a bit confused about the ‘Ten Rings’ plot who kidnap Stark in Iron Man given The Mandarin’s “role”. Any theories Frank?

    • Hi there Aidan,

      For starters, I agree with you that IRON MAN 3 was more enjoyable than its predecessor IRON MAN 2 as the balance was better received as you astutely pointed out between the action and humor.

      As for Stark spending so much time outside of his suit, I don’t think you need to read into that as sign of the IRON MAN man movie series coming to a conclusion. If anything, I think that director Shane Black wanted to concentrate solely on the character-driven angle of Stark’s angst-ridden tendencies. As I mentioned in my review, Downey pretty much is the tool that Black uses to fuel IRON MAN 3 with his glibness and off-the-wall quips. I thought it was rather daring to expose Stark’s flippant personality as Black could have easily buried him in that metal-clad suit and snuff out Stark’s personalized demons in favor of the action-oriented carnage.

      Besides, the trend in comic book action movies nowadays tend to be in the “hero-in-brooding” mode that has played so wonderfully in other ditties such as the BATMAN/SPIDER-MAN/HULK/SUPERMAN franchises. So it was no surprise that IRON MAN is following this same tradition with the “vulnerable superhero at the crossroads” shtick. Plus, Hollywood is too opportunistic to let go of the profitable IRON MAN sequels now especially given its monetary magic at the box office worldwide. Whether Downey signs on the dotted line or not for another turn as billionaire boytoy Tony Stark/Iron Man or not you can more than likely expect another explosive sequel from Stan Lee’s heroic metal-head.

      You do raise an excellent point Aidan about the direction in which Stark’s character may take a backseat to his super-powered alter ego Iron Man and feel more comfortable in his skin handling the crime-fighting business as the flippant yet resourceful Stark rather than risk jeopardizing the valued reputation of his super-charged persona.

      In reference to THE MANDARIN/”Ten Rings” plotline, it does clearly invite some bit of confusion so you’re not the only one scratching your head regarding this issue Aidan. I am not sure if my so-called theories are solid on this matter but I can only generalize that the sinister Mandarin (a legitimate villain in the IRON MAN comic book universe) is the true blue catalyst invented to destroy the notion of free enterprise and the progression of technology advancement–all represented fittingly by someone as accomplished as a stereotypical mogul such as a Tony Stark prototype. Seizing Stark signifies containing the modernization of the world’s dependency with technical maturity…maybe this is a simplistic take on Stark’s kidnapping or a shrewd and broad commentary on the envy of social class struggle…the “haves” vs. “the have nots”? Whatever the speculation, IRON MAN 3 is an adored popcorn pleaser that may end up running its course more sooner than later.

      Much appreciative of your feedback, Aidan.


      Frank O.


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