Faith & Film: Iron Man 3

The summer movie season is already underway, which means there will be many big superhero and/or comic book movies hitting theaters between now and Labor Day. “Iron Man 3” is first out of the starting block this year. It’s not a bad way to kick off the season.

We first met billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) a few years ago. He is a brash, wise-cracking, egotistical man. At one event, he wears a name tag saying “You Know Who I Am.” Somehow, in a way I still don’t really understand, in the first episode, Tony had a metal implant put into his chest which enables him, with the aid of specially designed suits, fly around the world, and defeat bad guys. If you’ve seen the movies, you know what I mean. If not, that’s enough for now.

After two Iron Man movies, as well as a significant role in last year’s “Avengers,” Tony is not himself. He has trouble sleeping and is prone to anxiety attacks. That’s what too much saving the world can do to a person, even Tony, who has never lacked self-confidence.

In the meantime, an Osama bin Laden look-alike called the Mandarin is appearing on TV threatening to take out the president of the United States if he does not obey him. Obviously, Tony has to overcome his anxiety and get his act together in time to save the world again.

The saving grace of the “Iron Man” series is its unpretentious nature. It never takes itself too seriously, unlike the recent Batman movies. Tony is always there with a wisecrack, even when the going gets tough. The chemistry between Downey and his assistant/love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is also a big plus. They are like superhero versions of Nick and Nora Charles from the old “Thin Man” movies.

A nice touch in “Iron Man 3” is the presence of a young fatherless boy named Harley who shows up to assist Tony when he is stranded in a small town in Tennessee, looking for a link to the bad guys. His relationship with the boy, who is desperate for a father-figure, helps to humanize Tony. Harley helps to bring out a more tender side to Tony.

There are the usual big-budget action sequences with a long explosive climax in a Miami shipyard which goes on too long. Most won’t be surprised to find out who is behind all the mayhem. The Mandarin may not be who he seems. Ben Kingsley has a good time in this menacing role.
It’s simple enough to say that if you like these big action movies, you will enjoy spending a couple of hours with “Iron Man 3.” If not, take heart. Every summer brings a few options for those who prefer their movies without superheroes or deafening special effects.

Tom Condon, OP