Upgrading the DNA

IRON MAN 3

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Director: Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey Jnr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black reunites with Robert Downey Jnr in the third instalment of the highly successful Iron Man franchise in Iron Man 3. Whilst the third film lacks the panache of the original Iron Man, Iron Man 3 will definitely appeal to its target male audience and features a bigger role for the superhero sidekick Pepper Potts, played with a muscularity by Gwyneth Paltrow. Don Cheadle returns as the army officer suiting up the Iron Patriot. Iron Man 3, with the exception of a brief prelude in Bern Switzerland, stays firmly within the cultural pastiche of 21st century America from Malibu to Chattanooga to Miami.

Especially relevant now, the enemy in Iron Man 3 is a psychopathic superhuman terrorist, The Mandarin, who is seemingly terrorising key points in the USA from the Graumann Theatre in downtown Hollywood to Air Force One, mid air over Florida with an explosive chemical manipulation of man’s DNA. As a sideline there is the supposedly geeky rival scientist Aldrich Killian first introduced in Bern, played with a marvelous dexterity by Australian actor Guy Pierce, an antithesis of all that Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark represents from boyish charm, sophisticated genius and suave, billionaire industrialist.

Unfortunately unlike Iron Man and Iron Man 2, with the wonderful Mickey Rourke as the villain flinging racing cars through the air at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the villain in this third installment is not as clearly defined, nor is he as ruthless and cunning yet equally clever and what imbalances appear on screen, is made up for by the witty script and loads of stunning action sequences from the demolition of Tony Stark’s Malibu Mansion, to a unrivaled skydiving sequence.

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Fresh from the attack of Loki’s avenging Nordic demons on the Manhattan skyline in 2012’s smash hit The Avengers, Iron Man is more fragile and less strong as he first appears, suffering from anxiety attacks and insomnia and seeking refuge in his robotic world of remote controlled Iron Men, Tony Stark soon finds the inner parent in him as he befriends Harley a Tennessee tech-savy youngster as he investigates a mysterious explosion in the Southern town close to Chattanooga in a bid to rebuild his Iron Man suit and save Pepper Potts from the clutches of the elusive villain, the internet waging, cultural terrorist The Mandarin…

Whilst there are some fantastic action sequences and Downey as usual embodies all the likable characteristics of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, the third installment of the series lacks a tighter narrative, with many inexplicable plot points not being resolved in favour of big budget action sequences. Iron Man 3, immersed in contemporary cultural references from Joan Rivers to Downton Abbey has some hugely entertaining sequences especially the Malibu and Tennessee sections but lacks some of the inherent style and flamboyance of the first two films, and also points to a rather disturbing subtext that many violent episodes in 21st century American society are at the hands of those from within the nation, and not some foreign malevolent power.

Nevertheless, the action and script makes up for any plot deficiencies and Iron Man 3 is fun for a gang of teenage boys to watch. Also starring the underutilized Rebecca Hall (Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Oscar Winning Ben Kingsley which begs the question what were these fine actors doing in such a comic book sequel?

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