Iron Man 3: Not so super

Robert Downey Jr. plays up his schtick and explosions in the newest Marvel flick

Where has Robert Downey Jr. gone? There's no doubt he's the star of Iron Man 3; he sprints through the picture like a neurotic panther. And yet he's absent, detached in a Zen-like way from the whole affair. The nakedness that defines his best performances — in any role, up to and including the first Iron Man, in 2008 — has become, paradoxically, a kind of mask, not unlike the sleek, airbrushed-looking one he wears as the superhero incarnation of cocky kajillionaire Tony Stark.

In the first Iron Man, Downey's performance wasn't so far from the one he'd given years before in Chaplin. Both characters shouldered enormous egos surrounded by shells of fragility — you had to love the whole egg. But today, Downey could play Stark in his sleep. The jittery self-doubt, the look-at-me hubris, the Boy Scout cluelessness about women: He can dial up whatever he needs. He's become so proficient in his believability that you can hardly believe a minute of it.

Maybe you don't need to believe much in Iron Man 3. This is the first in the franchise to be directed by Shane Black, and only the second picture the prolific action screenwriter has made. (The first was the marvelously nerve-jangling Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring Downey.) On the plus side, Black has a puckish sense of humor, and he shows a healthy resistance to the comic-booky self-seriousness of the Batman movies. The villains in Iron Man 3, for example, include the Mandarin, a pointy-bearded sage who's half Osama bin Laden, half Ming the Merciless. He's played with bug-eyed hamminess by Ben Kingsley, and the movie is spooky, silly, or both whenever he's onscreen.

Tin man: Downey wears nice suits, but where's the heart?
disney
Tin man: Downey wears nice suits, but where's the heart?

Details

Iron Man 3
directed by Shane Black
area theaters, starts Friday

But the big problems with Iron Man 3 are less specific to the movie than they are characteristic of the hypermalaise that's infected so many current mega-blockbusters — too much plot, too much action, too many characters, too many pseudo-feelings. The movie opens with a flashback to 1999, before Tony Stark suffered the near-fatal injury that led to his becoming a superhero. He's a playboy having a fling with a nerdy-gorgeous scientist (played by a beguiling but underused Rebecca Hall) who has discovered a breakthrough nanotechnology that, in the wrong hands, can turn human beings into flaming weapons. The wrong hands, it turns out, belong to Guy Pearce's sleazy-debonair Aldrich Killian, who, in the movie's present, plans to use this fancy science to kidnap the president. Along the way Killian tries to seduce Stark's now-live-in girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Stark is called on to fend off a fusillade of special effects, including bad guys whose flesh glows fiery orange, the usual explosions, and the destruction of Stark's futuro-groovy seaside home. The gratuitous grandness of these effects shouldn't be underestimated: They're big, all right. And yet all this adds up to so little. There's no real drama here, or if there is, Black gives us no time to let it sink in before moving on to the next cataclysmic signpost. The picture's climax, especially, strives for emotional grandeur: Black and Downey even toy with the idea of a tragic ending.

But Downey may have taken Tony Stark as far as he can. He's as fine an actor as we've got, which is why it's strange to watch a Downey performance and to feel nothing. He has a great deal of swagger and more physical agility than ever. But perhaps even he is exhausted by the too-muchness of

Iron Man 3 and its ilk.

 
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32 comments
Matt Feyen
Matt Feyen

It was great, loved the twist on the Mandarin and the post credit scene was worth the wait.

Rachael Meuwissen
Rachael Meuwissen

nope, haven't seen one or two either, but I did see mama at the plaza last night. that was good and cheesy!

Edward Bertsch
Edward Bertsch

Well that's just your opinion, man.... city pages

tjboyle
tjboyle

Entertaining, slow start, but picked up. Not as good as 1, definitely not Spiderman3. Never going to forgive that dance scene. Wife asked why a techie like Stark never fixed his chest until movie 3. Good point for the creator of the arc reactor and remote controled suits. It was a good movie nite last nite. Could have waited for the dvd to come out.

Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Saw it in 3D and thought it was very entertaining.

Molly Suzanne
Molly Suzanne

Way to post every ten minutes. Ive never had to unlike a page before now.

Kc Starr
Kc Starr

I just got home from seeing it.I thought it was great.the best out of the 3.

Ryan M. Jasurda
Ryan M. Jasurda

It was great. What more do you want from an action film? It was quite funny.

kyl3wyld
kyl3wyld

Most film critics are movie snobs. You probably liked Drive, and hated Children of Men.


P.S. You people voted for Hubert Humphrey, and you killed Jesus.

Chris Havranek
Chris Havranek

I'd say it was a pretty good popcorn flick. I wasn't going into the movie expecting a mind bending experience, but I was entertained.

Erik Ritter
Erik Ritter

I don't see what there was not to like. Better than the first two movies combined, the characters had more depth to them, and as far as storytelling, it relied on story way more than robots exploding for 2 hours.

Al Cady
Al Cady

Thanx for the spoiler alert there Chris. Douche.

Yang Dao
Yang Dao

It's a sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kenneta Fabing
Kenneta Fabing

Haven't seen it but the comments here are pretty entertaining

Chris Welton
Chris Welton

It sucked. What was with the mandarin? They ruined him. and they scrapped the Guardians of the Galaxy tie in with Iron Man going into space.

Eric Shawn Smith
Eric Shawn Smith

It's not a Chris Nolan movie by any stretch, but, still a really good movie. Nobody saw the curve ball comin with The Mandarin.

Ryan Schmidt
Ryan Schmidt

The Hangover 3 wins an Oscar in my mind lol

Eric Garvey
Eric Garvey

Sorry Stephanie, you're looking too deep into a movie that is really about cool robotic suits and explosions. It's like going to see Hangover 3 with Oscar expectations...

Nate Brennan
Nate Brennan

Well actually Village Voice since CP doesn't actually employ its own film critics, but from what I've read from reviewers I respect (haven't seen it get), your criticism of the review sounds valid (if hyperbolic)..

Derek Stiller
Derek Stiller

Ooh... We're the City Pages and we hate everything cool. Quick, call all the hipsters and warn them that Iron Man sucks so they can blog about it...

mntimelord
mntimelord

"The nakedness that defines his best performances — in any role, up to and including the first Iron Man, in 2008 — has become, paradoxically, a kind of mask, not unlike the sleek, airbrushed-looking one he wears as the superhero incarnation of cocky kajillionaire Tony Stark."

It's Iron Man 3, not fucking Shakespeare in the Park, get over yourself

 

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