Film review: ‘Iron Man 3′

Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark actually spends most of "Iron Man 3" outside his suit, which is nice Credit: Zade Rosenthal
Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark actually spends most of “Iron Man 3″ outside his suit, which is nice
Credit: Zade Rosenthal

‘Iron Man 3’
Director: Shane Black
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) globes

The first time Robert Downey Jr. and writer/director Shane Black teamed up, few people cared. With 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” they were two ‘80s casualties. Downey was a recovering druggie; Black, meanwhile, was Hollywood’s former highest-paid screenwriter facing down backlash over having made too much money.

With “Lethal Weapon,” “The Last Boy Scout” and others, Black created the modern smartass action blockbuster, only to find his pricey scripts turning meager profits. Cut to 2013. “Iron Man 3,” their belated reunion, grossed in 10 seconds what “Kiss Kiss” made in its entire run. The times, they are a-changing back.

Black was brought on as a replacement for departing auteur Jon Favreau, and overhauled a massive product that was already running through the machine. The opening sequence of “Iron Man 3” is thrilling, which is to say it’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” but with guys flying around in billion-dollar supersuits. It’s 1999 and Downey’s Tony Stark, a few years from rebirth, skulks about a New Year’s Eve party, wooing a hottie scientist (Rebecca Hall) and relentlessly mocking a nerdy fanboy (Guy Pearce). Pissy quips fly fast, while the narration calls attention to the script’s own making. “You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this,” cracks Stark — a self-aware gag right out of “Kiss Kiss.”

Alas, such introspection couldn’t last in a billion-dollar grosser that regularly requires clangy action set pieces. It soon becomes apparent that while Black might have beefed up a project that would have been as tiresome as the doughy “Iron Man 2,” he was likely under orders to leave some of it stupid. Here, Stark is attacked by a bin Laden-ish heavy known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). He might have connections to the aforementioned Pearce, who cleaned himself up into a golden god not above showing off his six-pack.

In a nice twist, Stark spends the majority of the film sans suit, stranded in Nowhere, Tennessee. An even better twist, one that ought not to be spoiled, comes later. (Let’s just say that it elegantly and amusingly disarms the queasy racism of having a villain in 2013 called “The Mandarin.”)

Black is a dark guy, but his darkness often manifests itself in hilariously caustic one-liners. He goes as far as he can in tailoring the project to his own whims, and he treats the material he can’t change with indifference — if not active hostility. Don Cheadle’s War Machine has been painted red, white and blue, and renamed the Iron Patriot, a cheesy rebranding Stark never misses an opportunity to belittle. Black saves his most hostile lines for when Stark is suddenly stuck with a kid sidekick. Turning Tony Stark into W.C. Fields, at the start of the summer season, no less, is a welcome development.

It’s odd for a filmmaker to try defeating the very cliches he once helped create. But then, times have changed: Hollywood product is more impersonal; personality is discouraged. Black, once the architect of blockbusters, is now an iconoclast. His “Iron Man 3” doesn’t have a heart (as though that’s a bad thing) but it does have a genuine sense of fun — even the noisiest, nonsense-iest parts are delivered with a smile. This isn’t “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” redux, but it’s closer to it than we deserve.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.