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Article by Teddy Durgin

Iron Man 3 Proves Its Metal er, Mettle

As I mature into (blech!) middle age, I can feel my misspent, fanboy youth slipping away. I'm just not as up on the various sci-fi, fantasy and superhero franchises as I used to be. Case in point, this past week's "Iron Man 3." I came out of my preview screening buzzing over how much I enjoyed it. It's flashy, breathless entertainment with a lot of wit and style. But there was one thing I loved above all else... The Mandarin! As played by Ben Kingsley, I can't even really tell you why I loved this marvelous villain so much and what is done with him over the course of the film. Some other reviewers have completely spoiled his entire character arc, but I won't do that. Suffice it to say, I thought as the end credits rolled that the actor and the character were the absolute best things in "Iron Man 3." I immediately surrounded myself with the usual cabal of comic and movie nerds in the lobby afterwards to swap geekspit... and they were just ripping the character to shreds! No, check that. They were ripping the treatment of the character to shreds, calling for director and co-writer Shane Black's head. It's at that point I realized the mortgage, car payments and trials of fatherhood have taken me far, far away from my dweeby, pop-culture roots. This is no lie. Before the "Iron Man 3" marketing kicked in these past few weeks, I hadn't even realized there was a villain named The Mandarin in "Iron Man" yore. He's been around for years apparently! And, I guess, the Powers That Be did a little too much tinkering for the die-hards. But... uh... COME ON!!! The Mandarin?! It's not like we're talking Lex Luthor or The Joker here. And so what if Black & Co. tinkered? Hollywood blockbusters should take chances like this one does! I hope Baz Luhrmann gives F. Scott Fitzgerald fans seizures with his 3-D version of "The Great Gatsby!" I hope Benedict Cumberbatch DOES turn out to be Khan in the new "Star Trek" flick! Go further, Tinseltown! Amputate one of Bradley Cooper's limbs in the next "Hangover." Have Vin Diesel paralyzed after one too many "Fast and Furious" car crashes. Cast a white man as Tonto in "The Lone Ranger!!!" Ahem. "Iron Man 3" rocks, folks. And once again, Robert Downey Jr. shines as the title character. He really has pulled off the rare feat in comic book cinema. He has made his protagonist more entertaining out of the superhero suit than when he has it on. Downey's Tony Stark has become one of those great pop-culture touchstone characters that you can plug into any situation and enjoy seeing him relate to whomever. Whether it's a couple of kids seeking his autograph in a restaurant or a small town of yokels who have never seen a guy like Stark ever, you watch him. In this third installment, he is more sarcastic than ever. But he is also more vulnerable than ever. His experience saving the world in "The Avengers" has changed him. The sudden revelation that Gods and aliens exist, and we puny humans could easily be under their boot heels at any moment has caused him to have panic attacks. He also tries to keep a relationship going with Gwyneth Paltrow. In short, he's a mess. At the same time, there is The Mandarin - a sort of super-terrorist whose worldwide bombings are getting closer to home. He also appears to be tied in somehow with Aldrich Killian (a wonderfully slimy Guy Pearce), a formerly geeky inventor turned science man-god. "Iron Man 3" is exhausting, but it's a good kind of exhausting. The special effects are indeed gargantuan, but the human drama is not forsaken here. And, yes, stick around through the 10 or 12 minutes of closing credits. One of the film's best human interactions is saved for the very end

. "Iron Man 3" is rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.

 

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