The first two Iron Man films pushed the limits of plausibility only within the range of highly radical automation, weaponry and gadgets. Easily digestible in the realm of comic book fantasy, reality wasn’t a total stranger to the gold and red superhero’s origin stories. However, “Iron Man 3,” taking place shortly after the events of the wildly fantastical “The Avengers,” must contend with the fact that the world has been exposed to wormholes, otherworldly gods, and space aliens. A terrorist plot attempts to bring contemporary realism back into the proceedings at first, but quickly gives way to virtually indestructible superhuman soldiers and science so cutting-edge that body parts can hastily regenerate and flying suits of armor no longer need wearers. The script does liven up halfway through, presenting a few clever twists and witty repartee with an unexpected ally before venturing towards the predictably vapid conclusion. But these sparse moments of ingenuity coupled with short-lived excitement from elaborate action sequences and state-of-the-art special effects can’t compensate for the lackluster antagonist or the absence of an inspired plot.
Suffering from panic bouts and nightmares from the recent Manhattan milestone involving the Avengers team, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) must cope with his haunted psyche and the strain it has put on his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). When a maniacal terrorist dubbed The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) begins setting off bombs and threatening the President, the world once again turns to Iron Man to save them. In a moment of arrogance, the billionaire playboy publicly challenges Mandarin, causing the madman to bring the fight directly to Stark’s home. Now, Iron Man must uncover the secrets behind the enigmatic terrorist to stop his diabolical machinations while simultaneously thwarting several demons from his own past.
The greatest detriment to the success of the story just might be the existence of “The Avengers.” Having previously introduced alien creatures, and now periodically being forced to acknowledge their invasion (cleverly subtly, through anxiety attacks and brief references to the incident in New York), severely undermines the notion that Iron Man is grounded in reality. He’s not supernatural, but rather (like Batman) a mortal whose intelligence and technological advancements allow him to possess a trenchant advantage over his adversaries – all of which have previously been mere humans as well. Even the new villains introduced in this third chapter, brandishing superhuman characteristics, attempt to offer up an explanation for their abilities, complexly tied to botany and progressive cellular regeneration, obscured by jargon but based on some incomprehensible scientific foundation.
This leads to the second major problem, which is the increasingly bourgeois lack of rules, boundaries, and definition for the antagonists. What exactly is the villain capable of? Breathing fire, melting metals, and exhibiting uncanny physical strength can be easily sold to audiences lining up for a superhero flick. But quite unexplainably, neoteric tricks are unleashed that will certainly raise eyebrows. Without guidelines, the basis in believability is abandoned; anything can happen, and Iron Man is once again invincible. The inclusion of a young boy to verbally joust with Stark is refreshing, along with Kingsley’s deceptive role, but the majority of the action is still just bright colors, loud explosions, and monotonous, spectacular destruction, as if director Shane Black has picked up a few momentary distraction techniques from Roland Emmerich. At least Stark’s cynical, overconfident, egotistic ravings are more hilarious than repetitiously vexing.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)