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Iron Man 3

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and his suit

The third film in the Iron Man franchise has slammed into movie theatres with all its expected laughs and thrills. Even though it is probably the weakest of the three films, it is far from being a dud. After all, Iron Man still stars Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle, who are joined by Guy Pearce, who don’s the villain’s robes (or rather skin) as well as Ben Kingsley, so they would have to work really hard to ruin the movie.

Iron Man III is just about all it needs to be - fun. Even so, you know a story has reached pretty close to zenith of its story arc when they have to pull out the old cute kid side kick. The film rolls out Ty Simpkins (Insidious and The Next Three Days) as  Harley Keener. Harley brings more than being cute to the table, as with the best kid-sidekicks he is smart, quick-witted and lacking the appropriate father figure for whom Stark can make a poor stand in.

Since its first installment, Iron Man has distinguished itself from the run of the mill, because Tony Stark is not your average superhero.  Instead, he is irreverent, brash and super rich, almost anti-hero or at least two genes removed from a super villain. Unlike Batman, Stark’s rich playboy persona is not a cover, it’s all there is, and it’s fun to watch, even though the playboy element has been removed.

Based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, Iron Man III is directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) whose writing credits far outstrips his directorial work.  Black also co-writes with Drew Pearce.

Iron Man III picks up after Avengers and therefore deals Tony Stark after the fall. The beauty of having the credits roll after a traumatic event from which the hero magically emerges is that we get to pretend that everything goes happily ever after. Interestingly, though much of this movie has little to do with the realistic, it does play with the idea that Stark’s fall from the black hole would have been traumatic, even for a superhero. So, though he is physically healthy, the man of iron, or rather the man in the iron suit (not to be confused with the man of steel) is now prone to anxiety attacks, which adds a welcome touch of vulnerability.

So while battling his own anxiety issues, Stark must also face a new menace the Mandarin (Kingsley) as well as rescue a President  Ellis (William Sadler) who looks disturbingly like George W.

The film has a good cast. Ben Kingsley is hilarious and Pearce is alright, though he will never make it into the book of Best Villains Ever. Cheadle feels a little underused, as his character isn’t given much to work with. I must confess, though, that Don Cheadle is becoming my new Morgan Freeman - he just has to turn up and I’m good.

Like Cheadle, Paltrow isn’t given that much to do, but she does her part well. Pepper Potts (despite her name) remains a strong, intelligent female character, so that even when she has to do some distressed-damselling, she remains more. It also helps that now she’s the CEO of Stark Industries.

The Iron Man suits are significantly amped up this time around. It almost never fails, that by the third installment of a superhero franchise, the makers begin to lose themselves in trying to outdo their cool factor. Fortunately, this time around the rest of the film doesn’t suffer too much for it.

Iron Man III is a witty, a worthwhile follow-up. It doesn’t bring anything brilliantly new to the table, but then, it doesn’t need to.