In “The Avengers, ”Captain America had some choice words for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”): What is he worth once if Iron Man armor was removed from the equation? Tony offered a witty retort, but it isn’t until “Iron Man 3” that fans actually get to see what the man in the armor is actually capable of — and it is awesome.
The problem is, the movie is bogged down by so many unnecessary elements that it’s difficult to appreciate the final evolution of Tony’s character.
“Iron Man 3” is set after the events of “The Avengers.” Tony isn’t sleeping at night, often going stretches of 72 or more hours without rest. When he does, he has nightmares. He also has severe anxiety attacks. Even with girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, “Thanks for Sharing”) living with him, he can’t seem to put the events behind him.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, “The Dictator”) is already on his ninth bombing by the beginning of the movie, and when a friend of Tony’s is caught in an explosion, Tony invites the Mandarin to his Malibu home for a face-off. The Mandarin accepts and most of Tony’s armor and home are destroyed. From here, Tony has to get to the bottom of the Mandarin’s plot with no usable armor, no techie gadgets and only his wits.
The story doesn’t sound so bad. When reduced down to what the trailers hint at, the plot looks manageable and open enough for both character growth and eye-catching action sequences. However, the plot elements become a bit much when Mandarin’s superhuman henchmen — who regenerate with flames and burn at temperatures that can melt nearly anything — appear, layered atop Pepper getting herself into trouble and a huge fake-out that takes too much time and doesn’t add to the plot.
It’s just too much.
Another gripe are Tony’s sudden anxiety attacks. In the first “Iron Man,” he is kidnapped, tortured, held prisoner for three months, watches his only friend there die and is kept alive by a high-tech gadget in his chest. If anything, this is the traumatic experience that triggers severe anxiety attacks, not the events of “The Avengers” — at which point he is already used to seeing the unusual and has already fought two major battles as Iron Man.
The anxiety attacks are not only oddly placed, but are also unnecessary to the overall plot. They take up time, and explaining them to people repeatedly takes up even more. Tony’s insomnia and subsequent deprivation of energy and cognitive ability would be enough to support the plot.
Ultimately, Tony does go through his mandatory character evolution, and the end result is more than satisfactory, but the movie has too much going on to let viewers truly appreciate it.
While “Iron Man 3” is good, it isn’t great. It would have been better if the script had been less packed. Go ahead and see it in theaters, but try to hit a matinee showing to get the biggest bang for your buck. Don’t forget to stay after the credits for an extra scene, which is good for a well-needed chuckle.