“Ironman 3” Movie Review

     Marvel Studios moves forward with “Phase 2”, as they call it, with the latest installment of their Avengers related films, “Ironman 3”.  Unlike it’s two predecessors, “Ironman 3” plays less like a sequel and more like a continuation of last summer’s “The Avengers”, which also had Ironman as a major character.  As a result, the screenplay makes numerous mentions of the events from “The Avengers”, as the mental state of our hero, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes into question in what is now the aftermath of that monumental battle for Earth.  This time around, Jon Favreau steps away from the director’s chair and makes way for Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), who takes on both writing and directing chores.  Black’s film is significantly more character driven than the previous entries and features almost exclusively Tony Stark without his Ironman armor.  You’ll find this is actually a good thing, since its difficult to convey emotion when the lead character constantly has a face shield covering him up.

     In catching up with Stark, we see he is not feeling well.  Along with constant anxiety attacks and sleeplessness, he can’t seem to get over what happened in New York in “The Avengers”.  This, in turn, is effecting his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and has him spending endless hours in his lab building new Ironman suits.  In addition, a new threat is looming in the form of an Osama Bin Laden type terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).  One of the subplots that has progressed from “Ironman 2” now has the U.S. government in possession of Stark’s armor technology from which they have created the “Iron Patriot”, piloted by Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).  In an early conversation, Rhodes tells Stark to stay out of the Mandarin investigation and leave it to him and the authorities to handle.  This changes when the Mandarin is responsible for a bombing of the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and someone close to Stark falls victim.

     Stark then proclaims his intention to find the Mandarin via the media and the terrorist group doesn’t take to kindly to the threat.  A trio of helicopters attack Stark’s Malibu home and destroy nearly everything with it.  Stark barely escapes in his Mark 42 Ironman suit, armor which attaches itself to him piece by piece through remote control.  From this point in the film, we don’t see much of Ironman, as Stark descends on a small southern town in an attempt to find out the origins of the Mandarin’s terrorist bombings.  Stark, whose Ironman armor has now run out of power, is aided by young boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins) as he attempts to get the suit back up and running and find out who is behind the attacks.  Interestingly, Stark achieves this through pure ingenuity, using only supplies he is able to buy at a local Home Depot.

     “Ironman 3” is one of those stories about your past coming back to bite you.  In a prologue, we are introduced to Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist who believes he has found a way to treat soldiers and allow them to recover from serious injuries.  The drug, known as “Extremis” has disturbing side effects for some in which the person literally overheats and explodes like a bomb.  Those that can handle the experimental drug; however, become invincible humans as any injury inflicted immediately heals.  They also have superhuman strength and can use their searing hot hands as weapons.  In it’s early stages, Stark ignores Killian’s pitch about 13 years before the events of “Ironman 3”.  Killian obviously moves on without him.

     Black delivers the thrills in the film’s third act in which our hero attempts to stop the Mandarin and his army of Extremis soldiers.  Several times during these scenes I wondered “What is Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Hawk Eye, and the Black Widow doing right now?”  From what I could see, Tony and company could really have used the help.  Are the other heroes on vacation or something?  Did they have something better to do while the world was suffering in the face of a significant terror threat?  Perhaps Tony Stark was told to take care of their light work.  After the film’s end credits, there is a scene where Tony is utilizing Bruce Banner as a shrink and I half expected Tony to say “Where the hell were you guys?”  “I thought we were a team!”  I suppose Marvel’s “Phase 2” will have our Avengers heroes in a lot of scenarios like this, which makes me wonder what they will come up with to justify the Avengers to assemble in the upcoming sequel in the summer of 2014.  I bet it will big.  GRADE: B