Review: Fun ‘Iron Man 3’ Still Suffers Sequelitis

The problem with sequels to good movies is simple: It’s hard to find a driving conflict if the prior movie did its job.

If the bad guys were defeated and the hero learned what he need to learn internally, the story’s over, isn’t it?

But not if you want more from the franchise.

This is the basic problem of Iron Man 3. Incorrigible playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is now more of a completely corrigible playMAN.

He helped save the world from semi-divine alien invasion in The Avengers. He learned to put aside his immature self-aggrandizing and work as part of a team. He committed to a mature, loving relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He doesn’t seem to drink as much and he’s even developed a corporate conscience for his business.

It’s as if Jack Sparrow cut off the dreadlocks, married a nice lass, and started giving yacht tours of the Caribbean.

So when a new threat arises, there’s not much question if Iron Man will rise to the occasion, if he will find courage within himself to face danger and a willingness to sacrifice himself for others.

Been there. Done that.

So instead of a great superhero flick, we have an installment of the Iron Man story with little internal conflict. Sure, Stark suffers from panic attacks as a result of his stress and, sure, Pepper wishes he was a bit less involved with his work and a bit more present at home. But, really, those conflicts scream suburban CPA rather than tortured superhero.

The threat that faces Iron Man in this movie is a bit convoluted as well: A Bin Laden style terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) engages on a bombing campaign in the heart of the United States. He threatens the President. Yadda yadda yadda.

The bombings are more than just bombings, however, as Tony Stark finds when he connects them to a military-grade science project that focuses on rejuvenation of lost limbs. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), an addled but remarkably handsome scientist, holds the key to the mystery, along with his assistant, one of Tony Stark’s conquests from his pre-Pepper days (Rebecca Hall).

Without deep internal conflicts to solve in order to reach the heights of heroism, Iron Man 3 will never measure up to other superhero movies such as The Avengers, Spiderman (the Tobey Magurie versions), and so on.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun.

With his friend Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Tony Stark can whip up enough one liners and daring deeds to keep you thoroughly entertained. A free-fall rescue after an airplane mishap is especially exciting. Once the Iron Men (now with remote control!) team up against the forces of perpetual rejuvenation, you’ve got an action movie on your hands. Things blow up. Things catch fire. Things fall into the depths of the ocean.

Boom boom yeah.

Besides Stark’s one-liners, there are a lot of laughs in the quick, sassy relationship that develops between the millionaire inventor and a little boy in Tennessee (Ty Simpkins). Complete with unabashed manipulation and relentless snark, the kid is a perfect foil for the reformed man-child. Ben Kingsley also has his unexpected moment in the sun.

When ranked against other superhero movies, Iron Man 3 doesn’t measure up to greatness. But when compared to what’s in the theaters and your desire to have a good time, it’s a no brainer. Go see it. Have fun.

Iron Man 3 is rated PG-13. It has intense but not gory action. A scene at the beginning suggests a sexual relationship and the woman is pictured from the back in her underwear. Tony and Piper also live together and there’s suggested intimacy there. It’s fairly mild. Language is refreshingly clean.

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