PLOT: "The Mandarin," a madman patterned after Middle East terrorist leaders, is out to destroy America and seems to have a personal vendetta against the U.S. President. Meanwhile, millionaire industrialist (genius, philanthropist, etc.) Tony Stark is having trouble settling into a stable relationship with his long-time assistant, Pepper Potts (who now runs Stark Industries), beset by nightmares about his New York experience with The Avengers and prone to panic/anxiety attacks. When one of The Mandarin's attacks injure Tony's friend and one-time chauffeur Happy Hogan (played by Iron Man 1 director Jon Favreau), that's the last straw for Stark's stress levels and Tony calls out the Mandarin - giving out his home address, no less - and the battle is joined, but there are wheels turning within wheels here, and not everything will turn out or turn up the way it first appears.
Players: Nearly everyone from the Iron Man story returns - Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, even a cameo from Shaun Toub, who was in the very first Iron Man movie. Noticeably absent is Scarlett Johansson. This film also features Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, the aforementioned Mr. Favreau, and everyone's favorite computer assistant, Jarvis, voiced by Paul Bettany and given a somewhat larger role and personality here.
Performance: In an action movie, you don't look for great range or depth of character, and don't expect that here. Downey is still the quintessential Tony Stark, Cheadle provides solid foundational support as sidekick and yet stands on his own as both a character and an actor, and Paltrow is both sympathetic and strong as straight-arrow Pepper Potts, who knows Tony's strengths and weaknesses, and juggles them appropriately. The villains in the movie are, by and large, portrayed effectively enough that the audience feels happy when they receive their comeuppance.
Point: When the movie was all said and done, I came away with the feeling that the message was about the mistakes we make, how they come back to haunt us, and how we eventually learn from them. Tony dares to take steps he's never taken before, and seems to finally be at peace with both himself and the world. Taken as a whole, this trilogy journey about the creation of Iron Man to the resolution of Tony Stark, simply Man, has been a good one. While you are left wondering how it will be possible by the end of the movie, we are assured that Tony Stark will return. And yes, stay all the way through the end credits.
Particulars: Other websites are better at this than I, but personally I found nothing really objectionable about the film, in terms of language, violence, sexuality, or morality. The woman in the row behind us at the theater used worse language every time something unexpected happened on the screen.
Raymond's Rating: It's not four star material, but I would give it a solid three stars for entertainment. My acid test for movies is "did I or did I not feel the need to look at my watch?" With Iron Man 3, I didn't even think about the time until the end credits were rolling and my bladder was nagging at me. If this was 2013's first summer "blockbuster," it's going to be a good summer.
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