The final installment in the Iron Man trilogy starring Robert Downey Jr., "Iron Man 3", flies into theaters this weekend. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
"Iron Man 3" is an ominously exciting, shoot-the-works comic-book spectacular. It keeps throwing things at you, but not with the random, busy franchise indifference that marked the hollow and grandiose "Iron Man 2". "Iron Man 3" is closer to a vision of the world teetering on the edge. It's like "The Dark Knight Rises" with less apocalyptic hot air.
The movie was directed and co-written by Shane Black, the former high-testosterone action screenwriter who created the Lethal Weapon series, and his work here isn't just skillful, it's fast and furious. He wires each scene for maximum intensity, and the result is that rarity, a superhero thrill ride with something at stake.
Robert Downey Jr.'s defining trait as an actor - the way he tosses off each line with speedy nonchalance, as though he were talking to himself, which he basically is - can make it seem as if nothing he’s saying really matters. This time, though, Downey turns Tony Stark’s motor-mouthed mockery into an expression of his feverish anxiety.
There's an ultra-terrorist on the loose, a global troublemaker called the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley with a scraggly beard, medieval hair and a methodical low voice that turns him into a scarily "rational" psycho cult leader. When the Mandarin takes over the airwaves, he's like Osama bin Laden recast as a Bond villain, and Kingsley bites into the role with lurid gusto. The film's other bad guy is a former geek scientist, played by Guy Pearce at his most sleekly nasty.
"Iron Man 3" is mostly liberated from the market-tested three-act structure that hobbles too many comic-book films. This one feels like a deep-dish middle installment that strands Stark without any protection - in this case, in the hinterlands of Tennessee, where he crash lands, only to learn that his Iron Man suit no longer works.
There are hilariously tense encounters with the local yokels, a testy camaraderie between Stark and his War Machine rival, played by Don Cheadle, a nice romantic tension with Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, and a climatic sequence that’s a flat-out awesome piece of action-fantasy engineering. I can't say I was moved by "Iron Man 3", but I was transported.