Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Iron Man/ Tony Stark in the third film in the Iron Man series. Photo by Zade Rosenthal
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All metal and no mettle in third ‘Iron Man’ movie

Regardless of Robert Downey, Jr., “Iron Man 3” is a heap of unusable scrap metal — all because of too many underdeveloped plotlines, pacing fluctuations and misused actors/characters. 

Industrialist and genius Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) finds himself contending with the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an international terrorist mastermind whose acts of violence have no boundaries. After Stark’s Malibu house is destroyed in a surprise attack, he embarks on a journey to track down the culprit.

With his ingenuity and instincts being the only strengths he has to rely on, Stark must fight his way back home and protect his loved ones. Along the way, he must figure out the answer to the one question that has troubled him: can he live his life without the suit, or is the suit’s control over him too irremovable?

To spare fellow moviegoers and comic book fans the effort of dissecting that seemingly intriguing premise, I’ll tell you what the truth is behind it: A big, fat, ugly lie. Not for one second does the plot realize its potential. Tony Stark’s search for answers gets relegated to the sidelines, and I blame screenwriter/director Shane Black for leaving this character development opportunity hanging. Such a shame that Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), too, doesn’t get to evolve beyond her damsel-in-distress role; you’d think now was the time to give her something substantial. Why, Mr. Black, couldn’t you do these two main characters justice?

And if that’s not enough to twist the knife, the seemingly important “Extremis” story arc gets the giant MacGuffin treatment, becoming a cheap means of providing baddies for Iron Man to fight. I had hoped the significance of this virus-like technology would be explained to instill a greater relevance to the storyline, but sadly, that turned out to not be the case here. Another cool “could have, would have, and should have” sci-fi element bites the dust…

But wait, there’s more!

Just when I thought my issues with the incompetent plot couldn’t get any worse, the next problem to fill my plate was pacing. Not only did the attack on Stark’s home take too long to reach and the rural Tennessee detour go on for one too many minutes, but the final battle at the oil drilling platform also felt more anticlimactic than exciting.

Plus, the transitions from the Extremis conspiracy, the Mandarin’s campaign of terror and Tony surviving without his vast wealth emerged from left field so frequently that I became perplexed by the sloppy arrangement.

And they call this the work of the man who worked on the scripts for “Lethal Weapon” and “Predator”? I find it hard to believe Mr. Black wasn’t able to arrange the bits and pieces so that a smooth, coherent flow could be maintained.

While the ever-brilliant Downey never fails to impress with his charm and wit, I can’t say the same about his co-stars. Paltrow tries hard, but the shoddy screenplay renders her earnest efforts useless. The same scenario applies to Don Cheadle, for his James Rhodes has gone from Stark’s best friend to superfluous all-American war machine.

Guy Pearce’s over-the-top role of Aldrich Killian spells “predictability” in red-hot capital letters. As for Rebecca Hall, her Maya Hansen is wasted in what is a position that doesn’t make much sense and has nothing for anyone to care about.

Probably the biggest casting disappointment is Ben Kingsley; he exudes no credible menace whenever he claims responsibility for terrorist attacks via televised broadcasts.

What was supposed to be Iron Man’s archenemy turned out to be a fraud, and the unexpected onscreen turn of events soon after permanently damaged his reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised if an esteemed actor such as Kingsley only took this role to cover his expenses.

If I could go back in time and prevent my past self from experiencing the big-budget debacle known as “Iron Man 3,” I would do so without hesitation.

Unfortunately, that daydream is never going to become a reality, and now I have to live with the sad fact that I had the displeasure of witnessing Iron Man suffer a humiliating downfall at the movies.