Before we get to the review, I have a confession to make: I squealed with delight at the sight of the Hulkbuster armor at the end of the “Iron Man 3” trailer. Yes. It's true. And I didn't do this within the comforts of home; I did this in a crowded theater where even the nerdiest of comic nerds could recoil in disgust at my embarrassing display.
Basically, what I'm trying to tell all of you is that I'm sometimes overwhelmed by insignificant details and can fall in love with something for asinine purposes. I loved “Iron Man 3” merely because a slightly bigger version of Iron Man's signature armor appeared on screen for about 15 seconds in a movie that runs slightly longer than two hours. Because of this one incredibly stupid reason, this review is heavily biased in favor of “Iron Man 3.” Tread lightly.
Robert Downey Jr. once again steps into the role of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), who, after the events of “The Avengers,” is now an anxiety riddled recluse. Yet as Tony sequesters himself within his lab, tweeking his various suits of armor, the world around him is being terrorized by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, whose stilted, over-enunciated delivery nearly betrays the film's most unexpected and mildly subversive twist), a supervillain who is equal parts Osama bin Laden and Ernst Stavros Blofeld.
Assisting the Mandarin in his campaign of terror is Aldrich Killian (an oily Guy Pearce), the CEO of Advanced Idea Mechanics (or A.I.M.) who has turned a group of disabled war veterans into human weapons. Ordinarily, these two would be no match for Iron Man, but after the Mandarin takes out the Stark compound with a couple of rocket launchers, Tony is now forced to get along with just his resourcefulness and one malfunctioning suit of Iron Man armor.
With Shane Black taking over the directing duties from Jon Favreau (who still appears briefly as Tony's bodyguard, “Happy” Hogan) the tone of “Iron Man 3” is significantly lighter and joke-ier. In fact, at times the film feels less like an entry in the “Iron Man” franchise and more like a superhero-themed sequel to Black's “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” There's a streak of self-parody running throughout the film that could alienate hardcore comic book nerds (who are also probably upset enough as it is with the film's chilling lack of M.O.D.O.K.), but unlike “Superman 3” and “Batman and Robin,” the comedic elements work and manage to gently ridicule the franchise without falling flat.
What doesn't work as well is that, much like “Iron Man 2,” “Iron Man 3” has too many characters with storylines that don't go anywhere. Why bring Don Cheadle back as Iron Patriot if his character is only going to salute people, fly around for a few seconds, and eventually play Danny Glover to Downey Jr.'s Mel Gibson in the, admittedly, dazzling finale?
But you know what? I can forgive the film for under-using Cheadle. I can also forgive it for that annoying sequence where Tony bonds with an incorrigible child genius. Because any film that's brave enough to give us fifteen full seconds of Hulkbuster armor as it busts through a wall and makes all kinds of crazy whirring noises deserves our forgiveness as well as our money. All of it.
Oh, Hulkbuster armor. Couldn't you just imagine it in the next “Avengers” movie, busting all kinds of Hulks? Oh, it would be great. Please marry me, Hulkbuster armor. I love you.
Rating: W W W