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This movie roxxx (if you see the movie, you’ll get it): “Iron Man 3”

May 6, 2013

iron-man-3-poster

Well, that kicked just about as much ass as there was to kick, didn’t it?

I gotta admit, I didn’t go into Iron Man 3 with high hopes. It’s not that I set the bar low—quite the contrary. After The Avengers served pretty much as the Omega of the Marvel comic superhero franchise, and especially after the obnoxious, deadly-dull Iron Man 2, I set the bar very high for this movie. I didn’t think there was any way it couldn’t suck. Well, it looks like my instincts are a nothing if not consistent (though, I’m still pretty sure that Kozmo.com stock will go through the roof any day now…), because it’s pretty tough to see how this movie can be topped—whatever else comes out this summer.

Okay, so I’m not going to ruin anything for you. I’ll try and stick to what it’s in the trailers: Tony Stark is a bit of a mess these days. After the events of The Avengers, he’s prone to anxiety attacks, and so he works feverishly in his lab, cranking out suit after suit in lieu of sleeping or spending quality time with live-in gf Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Remember all that domestic drama between Tony and Pepper in Iron Man 2? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here.

Because in short order, the US is gripped by a series of terrorist attacks masterminded by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a madman who looks like bin Laden, sounds like a news broadcaster, and has the viral video marketing skills of that dude who made the Kony video (with less ham-spanking).

At the same time, Pepper is approached by an oily researcher, first introduced in a prologue set in 1999, named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) who is perfecting a type of bio-engineering which allows him to, essentially, upgrade the human body. Think these things are related? Well, duh.

After an especially brutal bombing at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—the run up to which we see and, frankly, don’t understand—Stark chooses to challenge to Mandarin to come after him, so he can take the guy down. It goes poorly, as you know if you’ve seen the trailers.

Beaten, shorn of his tech, and halfway across the country, Tony must start from scratch to unravel the mystery of the Mandarin, and end his reign of terror. Aiding him is, well, no one. He makes friends with a lonely kid, and if you’re like me this is the part where you groan loudly. But fear not, gentle reader! Children have no power to melt Tony Stark’s misanthropic heart, as he treats the kid with the same impatience and dickishness he reserves for everyone else. And that is hilarious, because if you don’t enjoy watching Robert Downey Jr. snark at a cherubic, prepubescent boy…well, you may just not have a soul.

Look, we know that Downey can deliver the goods—we’ve known that since the first movie, but as we saw from the last film, he needs a decent movie around him. And on that note, venerable action-man Shane Black—he who created the Lethal Weapon series and with it pretty much the modern action genre—has written and directed a superhero movie that serves to inject the franchise with some needed brashness and bravado. Black swaggers into this movie like the cool kid, breaking up a Dungeons and Dragons game to both give the story some testosterone and subtly mock it at the same time.

Like Whedon, Black knows the territory of blockbusters films well enough to subvert our expectations to hilarious effect, such as when Iron Man pwns a house full of bad guys, only for the last henchman to drop his gun and exclaim, “Hey, look, I don’t even like working here. These people are so weird!” He also imports his trademark witty banter whenever Tony is onscreen with, well, anyone. I mean, this is the first summer in a long time to have great dialogue.

But the most surprising thing is how deftly Black handles massive action scenes. Yeah, you have to wait for long spells before you get them (long spells broken by hilarious conversations and smaller, cop-movie set-pieces), but when they come, Black knows precisely where to put the camera for maximum impact and coherence. A late-in-the-game mid-air rescue attempt had my theater’s crowd practically on its feet.

Some other points to consider:

* Wait, Tony had a fling with Rebecca Hall’s Maya in 1999? Uh, that would make her 16. Ick.

* Gwyneth is surprisingly not bad in these movies. I credit Downey with being able to make Paltrow tolerable.

* The climax is like the end of Lethal Weapon 2 cranked to 11.

* The movie includes some very sly social commentary.

* James Badge Dale is very, very good. How is this the same guy that was in Rubicon? The dude’s a shapeshifter.

Seriously, this film roxxx (no, I’m not giving away the joke).

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