Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA/China, 2013. Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, DMG Entertainment, Illusion Entertainment, Taurus Studios. Screenplay by Drew Pearce, Shane Black, based on the Marvel Comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, and the Extremis mini-series by Warren Ellis, and illustrated by Adi Granov. Cinematography by John Toll. Produced by Kevin Feige. Music by Brian Tyler. Production Design by Bill Brzeski. Costume Design by Louise Frogley. Film Editing by Peter S. Elliot, Jeffrey Ford. Academy Awards 2013. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2013.
Once again donning his metallic armor to fight against evil and, once again, doing it with his insouciant personality well intact. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., who can do this in his sleep by now and, here, appears to be doing just that) has been working on his toys in the years since the last installment, creating an arsenal of new suits including a brand new prototype that can fly through the air to him and assemble itself on his body. This is a piece of handiwork sadly not fully operational by the time trouble comes to town, this time in the form of a rhetoric-spouting terrorist known only as “The Mandarin” (Ben Kingsley). This madman causes no end of atrocities and is looking to bait the United States into catching him; Iron Man’s participation in the matter becomes difficult when he finds himself stranded, suitless and friendless, in the middle of rural Tennessee and needing to start over from scratch. Meanwhile, his beloved Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) has hooked up with a biochemical engineer from Stark’s past (Rebecca Hall) and is trying to find out why an old friend, now a pharmaceutical tycoon (Guy Pearce) has reappeared in her life. After an exciting first installment and a mundane second adventure, all the stops have been pulled to make this the most creative and exciting Iron Man yet, but for some reason the pieces don’t gel together. There’s so much hardware until there’s too much, resulting in a few overripe plot moves that beggar belief even in a piece of work that is not meant to mimic hard-hitting reality. The interaction between the two stars is minimal compared to previous ventures (particularly as their consummating their relationship has killed the heat of anticipation that worked so well in the past), while the twisty plot (which makes far too liberal a use of the term “think tank”) is so obsessed with coming up with new twists that it is, at times, devoid of any central pivot.