Iron Man 3 (2013) ☆☆☆(3/4) : Iron Man recharged

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Unexpectedly, “Iron Man 3” recharges itself with the sense of fun and excitement while being a little more serious than before. We saw Bruce Wayne and James Bond falling and then rising again in last year, and now it is Tony Stark’s turn to go through a hard journey for reestablishing himself, and the movie is fun even when he puts himself into actions without wearing his iron suit. He may be a lot more vulnerable than before, but he is as witty as before, and we are both thrilled and amused by his another adventure.

After the prologue scene showing how Tony Stark(Robert Downey Jr.) spent the last day of 1999 in Switzerland with a pretty biologist Maya Hansen(Rebecca Hall) while neglecting a meek but ambitious scientist named Aldrich Killian(Guy Pearce), the movie quickly moves to Tony Stark at present point. After that apocalyptic incident during the climax of “The Avengers”(2012), he has devoted most of his time to not only upgrading his iron suit but also making its numerous variations at the fancy laboratory below his luxurious mansion, and we see some of his personal toys along with his latest technique developed for quicker wearing. I do not think making a bunch of metal objects flying into you is a good idea for wearing iron suit, but Downey maintains his sardonic wit even when he gets his private part hit by one of them, and he makes the scene look like a joyful child’s play.

While his ever-faithful assistant Pepper Potts(Gwyneth Paltrow) manages Stark Industries on his behalf as usual, he casually behaves as if nothing much had happened, but he is not all right in his mind. Considering his behaviors, it seems he is going through a sort of PTSD caused by his adventure in “The Avengers”, but that is a story premise I found a little too hard to accept. As far as I remember, there was nothing traumatic about those bloated actions in that movie – except his Human Centipede action which was probably more traumatic than going through a wormhole(Do you remember how he went straight through one giant floating creature?).

The humanity turns out to be far more resilient than Stark, for the world goes on as usual even after such a historical extraterrestrial invasion confirming the existence of aliens and superheroes to everyone on the Earth. They do remember it, but they do not seem to be affected a lot by the catastrophe which was unleashed upon the streets of Manhattan. What the hell, “The Avengers” was just a big expensive commotion in the superheroes’ playground, wasn’t it?

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Anyway, the global world remains being threatened by bad guys, and the most prominent one is the Mandarin(Ben Kingsley). With the beard instantly evoking our memories of Osama bin Laden, this zealous terrorist leader announces the assaults on the US territory while hiding somewhere in the world, and it is not just an empty threat. A mysterious explosion occurs in LA, and Happy Hogan(Jon Favreau), Stark’s ex-bodyguard currently working as the security chief of Stark Industries, is seriously injured during that explosion. Angered Stark vows a private revenge on the Mandarin in front of the media, but his enemy quickly slaps him through one spectacular ambush, and now Stark finds himself depending on his intelligence more than his gadgets.

The movie spends considerable amount of time to how Stark tries to solve the mystery behind the explosion while searching for the Mandarin alone. I cannot say a lot about that, but you will not need a minute to figure out that Dr. Killian, who looks quite different now when he visits Stark Industries to meet Potts, is somehow involved with the Mandarin. They have a bunch of super soldiers who can turn their bodies into hot burning mess and also can regenerate their body parts quickly, and, not so surprisingly, Dr. Hansen’s personal scientific project is behind their origin.

These soldiers look threatening and invincible on the surface, but I must say they look ridiculous at times with their occasionally glowing eyes and skin. As a biology major, I have no idea about how their biological metabolism is genetically modified to be capable of generating the heat of more than 3,000 ℃, and I wondered whether they would face serious inconvenience during their bedroom activity(Is their next development stage mainly for solving that problem?)

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But it is just my small amusement with the shaky premise. The story is engaging, and the director/co-writer Shane Black, who wrote the screenplay for “Lethal Weapon”(1987), provides many witty moments of character interactions between big action sequences. There is a precocious kid who helps Stark in several ways while he investigates a similar explosion case in some rural town in Tennessee, and his scenes with Stark drew some hearty laughs from me and the other audiences(young actor Ty Symtkin holds his own little place while playing well with Downey). Don Cheadle, who reprises his thankless role in the previous film, has more interesting things to do here in this movie, and Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley play their villain characters with gleeful relish. Rebecca Hall and Gwyneth Paltrow do not have many things to do compared to their co-actors, but they do not give bad performances at least even though they are mostly wasted.

With the good story and nice performances at its base, the movie mightily soars with its excellent actions sequences as it promised to us through its trailer. Shane and his co-writer Drew Pearce present some neat ideas for Stark’s iron suits, and I was surprised and entertained by how the movie skillfully mixes some of them into the thrilling action sequence involving Air Force One. The finale is decorated with the big action spectacle unfolded at a wide container harbor, and I appreciated how the movie lets us to observe its scale and scope while busying itself with lots of bangs and explosions and CGI figures on the screen.

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And Robert Downey Jr,’s performance holds its center even at that point. I was not that impressed by the first Iron Man movie in 2008 and the following sequel released in 2010, and I was less enthusiastic about “The Avengers” than others, but I was always entertained by Downey’s performance despite my disappointment with these movies. This time, Downey is in a better story, and he effortlessly dances between seriousness and fun as making the changes inside his character feel convincing to us. There still remains a spoiled smart kid inside Stark at the end of the story, but you can see that how much he is changed when he utters the last line with matured confidence, and you will hope he will soon return again.

Although I found its plot progress a bit murky with several unexplained spots, “Iron Man 3” is more entertaining than its previous films, and I enjoyed its humor and actions. Besides being shown in 2D, the movie will also be shown in 3D or 3D IMAX in selected theaters, but, like many previous cases, you will not miss much while watching it in 2D. Yes, there is a wonderful 3D hologram scene showing the entire brain activity of one character, but that is a brief one, and, to be frank with you, I incidentally saw far cooler images of brains from one impressive New York Times science article few weeks ago.

If you’re interested in reading that article, here’s the link.

Sidenote: There is a small scene after the end credit linked with “The Avengers”. It is trivial, but you may find it funny.

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