Movies
3:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

In 'Iron Man 3,' A Metalhead Gets The Blues

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 4:07 pm

Y'know, I think this bummed-out superhero thing is catching. Depressed Bat-guy, brooding Spider-dude, even the Man of Steel seems existentially troubled in previews of his most recent incarnation.

And smart-alecky Iron Man? He'd appeared inoculated by Tony Stark's reflexive snark from succumbing to a similar ailment — but even he's having anxiety attacks these days. Ever since that Avengers dust-up with those unpleasant aliens last summer, he's evidently been having trouble sleeping.

And now, with his super-buddies occupied elsewhere, our hero is on his own when a pontificating bad guy (Ben Kingsley) surfaces, all ornate robes and dirty hair and pretentious Asian-inspired name, with a retinue of suicide bombers and an affect that suggests he wants to be thought of as Osama bin Mandarin.

When his minions lay waste to a public square, blowing up a lot of innocent civilians — similarities to Boston presumably not intended, but hard to ignore — Stark's reaction is to issue an "If you're a man, you'll come after me, I'll leave the door unlocked" dare through the press. Complete with his address. (Not perhaps the wisest move a sleep-deprived, trigger-happy billionaire who wants to protect his girlfriend could do.)

Happily, Stark's been working on a nifty new Iron Man app that lets him bond with his body armor one kneepad at a time. There are still a few kinks — as the pieces careen his way, it looks like he's under attack, and until they're all synched up he can't fly — but his artificially intelligent pal Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany) is good at working them out in real time. For a while, at least.

Robert Downey Jr. has always put a you're-not-the-boss-of-me adolescent spin on Stark, so it's fun that Iron Man 3 gives him an actual adolescent to play against: a lonely kid named Harley (Ty Simpkins) who finds a low-energy, beat-up Iron Man in his garage and treats him a lot like Elliott treated E.T.

I'm gonna guess that was new writer-director Shane Black's idea; he's the guy who revitalized action movies a couple of decades ago with his script for Lethal Weapon, and who more recently revitalized Downey's career with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so it's reasonable that Downey wanted him around. His recipe here is similar — snappy dialogue, momentarily startling plot twists and lots of stuff blowing up. Stark spars amiably with Don Cheadle's earnest Col. Rhodes, puffs out his chest with Guy Pearce's villainous entrepreneur Aldrich Killian, and jousts puckishly with a freshly feisty Pepper Potts.

And with all those heavyweights on hand, it makes sense that the film makes much of character-based surprises — who knew Gwyneth Paltrow's Potts spent so much time at the gym, for instance?

It also has — and I don't think this will qualify as a spoiler — an entirely conventional blow-everything-to-smithereens conclusion. Looks like a fireworks display, it does, which is either Stark-scale hubris or merely appropriate for an early-May release that has every intention of hanging around theaters until the Fourth of July.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

"Iron Man 3," starring Robert Downey Jr., qualifies as what you might call a double-dip sequel. It's the third movie in the "Iron Man" series. But it's also a follow-up to "The Avengers," presumably the first of many. It opens at midnight at thousands of theaters in this country. But because it opened last week in dozens of other countries, it already has more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the bank. Bob Mondello says he hopes that cheers up its leading man.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: You know, I think this bummed-out superhero thing is catching. Depressed Bat-guy, brooding Spider-dude, even the Man of Steel seems existentially troubled in previews. And smart-alecky Iron Man is, well, just listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: (as Tony Stark) I'm Tony Stark. I build neat stuff. I got a great girl and occasionally save the world. So why can't I sleep?

MONDELLO: Actually, we know why. That Avengers dust-up with the aliens last summer would leave anyone anxious. It's giving Tony Stark panic attacks every time somebody says New York. And now, with his super buddies occupied elsewhere, a pontificating bad guy has surfaced who might as well be named Osama bin Mandarin.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

BEN KINGSLEY: (as The Mandarin) Today is the first day of what's left of your life.

MONDELLO: Mandarin keeps blowing stuff up, including innocent civilians. And, well, lack of sleep will make even a superhero say things in public he probably shouldn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

DOWNEY: (as Tony Stark) Here's my home address: 10880 Malibu Point, 90265.

MONDELLO: Not the zip code. Now, he can find you, which of course, he does. Happily, Stark's been working on a nifty new Iron Man app that lets him bond with his body armor one kneepad at a time. There are still a few kinks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

DOWNEY: (as Tony Stark ) Jarvis, where's my flight power?

PAUL BETTANY: (as Jarvis) Working on it, sir. This is a prototype.

MONDELLO: But his robot pal is good at working them out in real time, for a while, at least. Robert Downey Jr. has always put you're-not-the-boss-of-me adolescence into playing Stark, so it's fun that "Iron Man 3" gives him an actual adolescent to play with: a lonely kid named Harley, who finds Iron Man in his garage and treats him a lot like Elliot treated E.T. I'm going to guess that was new writer-director Shane Black's idea. He's the guy who revitalized action movies a couple of decades ago with his script for "Lethal Weapon." And his recipe here is similar: snappy dialogue, momentarily startling plot twists and lots of stuff blowing up.

The film has some fun character-based surprises. Who knew Stark's girlfriend, Pepper, spent so much time at the gym, for instance. And I don't think this qualifies as a spoiler: an entirely conventional blow-everything-to-smithereens conclusion. Looks like a fireworks display, which is either hubris or simply appropriate for an early May release that has every intention of hanging around theaters until the Fourth of July. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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