Tony Stark is back in action in Iron Man 3. This time around the villain is Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a bitter inventor who has appropriated the “Extremis” regenerative virus developed by Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) to repair his crippled legs and create a race of super beings with fiery regenerative limbs. I’m not clear what Killian intends to do with his super beings, who have a tendency to overheat and blow up. This leads Killian to employ a terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who claims responsibility for the “bombings.”
I guess Killian wants to take over the world, or something. Superhero villains always want to take over the world. It’s not clear what he wants to do, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Downey, Jr. carries the story with his humor and glib delivery. Seems that Tony is suffering from anxiety attacks and is weary with his lot in life. His one-liners elicited laughs from me, and some of the best moments in the film are his reactions to a number of setbacks that provide nice surprises. As often as Tony's Iron Man pieces fly to him on command and click into place in that oh-so-cool way, his clinking, clattering parts fall to the ground. Technology doesn’t always work for Tony Stark, and at one point he has to rely on the help of a fatherless boy (Ty Simpkins) with whom he develops a touching father-son relationship, a thoughtful interlude that provides a nice change of pace.
As always, Gwyneth Paltrow is radiant, and she gets to wear an Iron Man suit and kick butt. As always, too, there’s lots of action: some satisfying destruction as Stark’s Malibu crib crumbles into the Pacific; tense moments when Tony attempts to rescue free-falling passengers sucked out of Air Force One; and epic combat amidst all sorts of collapsing cranes and derricks involving multiple remote-controlled Iron Man suits.
By the end of the story, Tony Stark has been bashed and wounded and presumed dead. He nearly loses Pepper, he acknowledges past mistakes, and he resolves to turn over a new leaf. He has journeyed into his heart of darkness and, like Marlow, he has narrated his confessional tale, as the opening voice-over suggests. SPOILER - IF YOU WAIT TILL THE END OF THE LENGTHY CREDITS: But as the whimsical post-credits epilogue reveals, “Marlow” has been telling his story to Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), but the Hulk has fallen asleep at the beginning and hasn’t heard a word of it.