Marvel wasted no time in opening the summer season with a big bang with the early May release of "Iron Man 3."
Considering the previous two films have grossed over $600 million, this is certainly a way to get film fans flocking to the theaters after what has thus far been a rather dismal spring at the movies. The "Iron Man" series has become a juggernaut, leading to Jon Favereau becoming a director to be reckoned with and the resurgences in the careers of Robert Downey Jr. and Gywneth Paltrow. Iron Man's numbers launched the comic book character into the same league as the spider, the bat, and the Big S. Even in the crowded "Avengers," Downey Jr. stole the show.
While there was no doubt this third film would be a financial success – and it has been only the top-grossing movie in the world for two weeks -- there was some feeling going into it that it needed a little more any energy after a slightly underwhelming Part 2. It is the first “Iron Man” film not directed by Favereau (who co-stars here); this one was helmed by Shane Black ("Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang").
"Iron Man 3" wastes little time jumping right in, and introduces the villains very quickly -- one in a flashback to pre-Iron Man Tony Stark, when the inventor was still just the ridiculously wealthy playboy. The first new villain introduced is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a lowly but ambitious employee in Stark's company that Stark has no problem dismissing. Stark is more interested in "his botanist," Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). In actuality she seems to be creating botanical warfare, I guess, but nevermind; Stark and the rest of the country are extremely concerned about a Middle Eastern terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who is determined to the see the annihilation of the United States. With the grainy videos, hateful rhetoric, and even the make-up and costumes used, they may well have just called The Mandarin “bin Laden.” This plot may seem a bit out of place for this kind of film, but as the film plays out it isn't.
Of course, Tony also has his personal life, and his relationship with Pepper seems a bit strained, especially considering his non-stop work in his lair constantly tweaking the Iron Man suit. He works for days without sleeping, and as Pepper begins to worry for him and their relationship we simply wonder if Tony has developed a crystal meth addiction. The we learn Iron Man himself is suffering from anxiety attacks. I don't know, I can see a fear of kryptonite, but a superhero with anxiety attacks?
Nonetheless, the film wisely doesn't too mired in that dilemma, and while Tony calls out The Mandarin, Killian has returned after many years and even more plastic surgery and is hanging around again with his eye on Pepper, and we assume something much more nefarious.
At the speed this film works this is all just the set-up. This film is the most explosive and entertaining “Iron man” yet; anxiety attacks and all. An action sequence midway through the film when the Mandarin pays Stark a visit is nothing short of brilliant, and something that will be tough for any film to top this summer. And that's only one of many incredible adrenaline-rush scenes.
I don't envy the film makers that are following this perfect summer thrill ride. Shane Black takes over the franchise and doesn’t miss a beat, balancing the bombastic and the humorous as Favreua did with the previous two films. The principles are every bit as solid as in the previous films, although a bit more of Col. Rhodes (Don Cheadle) wouldn't have hurt. Pearce portrays Killian with the right slimy notes, even if they're not particularly original, and Sir Ben Kingsley seems to have quite a bit of fun playing the psychopathic Mandarin. Hall may not get a great deal of screen time, but is surprisingly effective in the time she has as Maya.
If there was any question the series could be veering off track after "Iron Man 2," this film has silenced that. This is not only probably going to be the most exciting film of the summer, but more likely the entire year.