‘Iron Man 3’ more than a superhero movie

In Shane Black’s sharp-witted, surprisingly fun and well-plotted “Iron Man 3,” he proves that he is not only a witty auteur, but also worthy of summer tentpole films as both director and writer.

“Iron Man 3” follows Joss Whedon’s equally entertaining summer blockbuster “The Avengers,” but explores deeper themes such as anxiety after traumatic experiences and the power of symbolism. “Iron Man 3” is Black’s second directorial effort after the underseen, but highly entertaining “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.” That film also stars Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. The Black and Downey duo defy superhero conventions by exploring a truly interesting story and exploration of the human spirit.

“Iron Man 3” functions as both an entertaining film and critique of the superhero film genre. Black rips off Tony Stark’s layers of heroism and brings him back to his human experience, similar to the first film. This is not a wholly new approach to superhero filmmaking considering many heroes in the past have made the decision to try and stop being the hero, but what Black accomplishes with his film blows away any previous incarnations such as “Spider-Man 2.” “Iron Man 3” accomplishes this feat by exploring what are intriguing thematic elements with consistent humor and snark courtesy of Downey, the comeback kid.

“The Avengers” proved Downey could easily come back from the disappointing “Iron Man 2,” but it is in “Iron Man 3” that Downey’s Tony Stark truly comes to life with panache and fervor. The comedy lines are delivered sharply the way only Downey could. Audiences learned in 2005 that Black and Downey were a match made in cinematic heaven with the previously mentioned “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.” Marvel Studios has made its best decision since hiring Whedon to write and direct “The Avengers,” by allowing Black to stretch his wings in the superhero genre. From a familiar opening narration to excessive snark there is something so endearing about this humorous action/adventure film.

The movie has flaws; they are minimal, but are there nonetheless. While Black’s direction and writing bites consistently it doesn’t feel like a superhero film for the first 45 minutes. The first act moves slowly, but rockets out of the mud the moment the second act rolls around. By the third act I was completely sold.

I think it is also important to warn audiences that the humor might rub some individuals the wrong way. Black never fears making fun of any subject, including some very intense themes that impact humanity today.

Downey performs with an expert understanding of comedy and intensity, and the rest of the cast is equally impressive. Gwenyth Paltrow is the first female love interest to do more than stand screaming, crying or dying in a superhero film. Marvel got a lot of criticism for the lack of story surrounding “The Avengers” one female character, Black Widow. They improve upon this flaw by letting Paltrow get in on the action and avoid being a damsel in distress.

Unfortunately, the other female characters are quite underwritten, but the male villains played by Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley, respectively, are perfect both as threatening antagonists, but also as critiques of what villains have become in superhero films. The plot the two create is one of the more interesting villainous plots I’ve encountered and all the actors are willing to commit to it entirely. This commitment is always apparent and demands attention from as large of an audience as possible.

Overall, the film is just good, old-fashioned super fun thanks to both Black and his outstanding cast. Whedon no doubt has his work cut out for him while writing “The Avengers 2” to match the wit and charm of Black’s “Iron Man 3.”

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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