by Tim Gordon
The Long Iron Kiss Goodbye
Marvel’s cinematic standard-bearer, Tony Starks returns but must overcome anxiety and self-doubts to combat his greatest threat in the emotionally-stirring big-budge blockbuster, Iron Man 3.
When we last saw Iron Man, he and the rest of The Avengers were saving the world in last summer’s epic adventure. After a flashback to 1999 where Stark has a one-night stand with a botanist, Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and breaks a promise to a nerdy scientist, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) we’re jettisoned to present days where he is still dealing with the after-effects from that titanic battle. Unable to sleep, minimized and filled with anxiety, he spends the lion’s share of his time sequestered in his lab tinkering with his toys in effort to increase his overall effectiveness, much to the chagrin of his lady love, Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow).
Meanwhile, a new threat has emerged, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an Osama bin Laden-esque tyrant who is spreading wide-spread panic across the globe. Now deeded a military matter, the government has put it’s trust and resources into the War Machine (Don Cheadle), now christened Iron Patriot, to stamp out the threat.
But all that it takes to pull Iron Man back in the game is a brutal attack that leaves his close friend and former bodyguard, Happy (Jon Favreau) in critical condition. Upset and a little unrational, Stark invites terror to his front door by challenging the Mandarin to come and face him man-to-man. His invitation is answered in a spectacular destruction of his Malibu haunt that is one of the film’s best sequences and set pieces. The attack sets him on an emotional course forces him out of his comfort zone on the long road to redemption.
Written and directed by Shane Black, his story has a Batman-esque feel that examines how the man can be heroic outside of his suit. Stark also becomes a cross between Bruce Wayne and MacGyver as he seeks to find out the source of not only The Mandarin’s whereabouts but also his source of power.
Much of the credit for the success of this film and the franchise goes to Downey. There are long stretches in IM3 where the focus is on his journey and it is his outstanding acting ability and charisma that keeps the crowd engaged in the story as well as his safety and well being. Away from his beloved Pepper, who pines for him like Batman does for Rachel in TDK, and isolated with only his non-functioning suit and the voice of his AI system, JARVIS (Paul Bettany) in the middle of nowhere, Stark is a mess. He teams with a young kid, Harley (Ty Simpkins) and slowly discovers that even without his precious metal he can still get the job done.
All great trilogies have one thing in common, a clear and consistent vision that acts as thread through the three stories. Think of The Godfather, Lord of the Rings and the Dark Knight trilogy as recent examples. While Black’s change in tone works and makes sense, there is a missing unknown element that provides for solid popcorn entertainment but leaves the viewer with an unsatisfied feeling. Whether it is incorporating Pepper in the center of key plot points, the invincibility of the villain or some similarities to The Long Kiss Goodnight, this swan song left us with a hollow feeling.
While it is possible that Downey will appear in The Avengers sequel, the film gives the audience the sense that his ride in the Iron suit may be coming to an end. In recent memory, it is very difficult to think of any one actor who so inhabits and is identified by a single character. If this is indeed the end, this Long Iron Kiss Goodbye will leave fans with an amazing legacy, great memories and record-breaking film that is good enough but far from great!