Third 'Iron Man' jokiest, but most violent of trio

Robert Downey Jr. in 'Iron Man 3.'
Robert Downey Jr. in 'Iron Man 3.'
Photo by Marvel
| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 7:51 p.m.

The third “Iron Man” movie, the finale to this trilogy of Marvel marvels, is the jokiest and cutest of them all. Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets a kiddie sidekick, for Pete's sake.

It's also far and away the most violent, with a “Die Hard” body count, bombs and bullets, and Stark trash-talking evil henchmen about how he's going to kill them.

Writer-director Shane Black, who cut his teeth on “Lethal Weapon” movies and directed Downey in one of his best pre-”Iron Man” pictures, “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” brings a more violent, angst-ridden sensibility to the franchise.

So there is not one Iron Man this time, and not just two (the War Machine suit, worn by Stark's military pal played by Don Cheadle). No, as the trailers promise, there are many — suits that can be summoned, video game fashion, in mid-fight, mid-flight. That sort of deus ex machina robs the fights-to-the-death of their fear of death and the film of some of its high-stakes urgency.

A new terrorist foe is assaulting America. The Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey, big and broad), who isn't Chinese, is threatening the president (William Sadler), the country and Iron Man.

And when the bad guy's minions take down Tony Stark's bodyguard (Jon Favreau, who directed the first two “Iron Man” movies), Tony vows “good old-fashioned revenge.”

That's when Tony's Fortress of Malibu is destroyed. That's when Tony's beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is endangered. (These aren't spoilers, folks. It's all in the trailer.)

This “Iron Man” is about the “demons” we create through the people we wrong, and Black (who co-wrote the script) frames all this within a Tony flashback, to the day he scored a one-night-stand with a scientist (Rebecca Hall) and stiffed a think-tank founder (Guy Pearce).

Downey is as on the money as ever as Stark, punching up pithy punchlines.

Stark criss-crosses the country and suffers anxiety attacks along the way. A kid (Ty Simpkins of “Insidious”) with a Disney Channel haircut to make up for his hard-luck life in Tennessee pitches in to help. A pushy, inquisitive child and these red-eyed minions of evil whose wounds heal in an instant would give anybody heart palpitations.

The third-act twists are pretty easy to see coming, and the action beats feel pre-ordained. But one bit of business involving people sucked out of Air Force One is the film's jaw-dropper, a stunt/effect that is as epic as anything this genre has produced.

And the broad, goofy jokes and one-liners land — even if they feel a little winded this time.

Roger Moore is a movie critic for McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers.

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