Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” the likely conclusion to the popular film trilogy, hit theaters this month, and it’s clear why it’s already an early summer blockbuster. The characters are easy to relate to, the lead actors possess star power, and the special effects are mesmerizing. Still, parents of children younger than 13 should consider whether “Iron Man 3” is appropriate for younger kids.
In this installment, Robert Downey Jr., of course, returns as industrialist Tony Stark (who, as most everyone knows, transforms into Iron Man thanks to the mechanized creations developed in his lab). In this latest film, Stark must use his suits to battle a terrorist called the Mandarin. In the process, he struggles with an identity crises of sorts, wondering who he is without his superhero talents when his artificial intelligence sidekick J.A.R.V.I.S. powers down and Stark must soldier on to protect the country and his loved ones. The storyline of saving the U.S. president is far less believable, though, than the parallel tale of Stark’s personal journey.
In his role as Stark, Downey Jr. delivers another polished performance. He IS Iron Man; there is no room to wonder if another actor could play the superhero better. Downey is at his best with his snappy comments and cocky attitude. He makes the audience want to be Iron Man, too — or at least Iron Man’s best friend or girlfriend. But in this film, we also get a glimpse of Stark’s vulnerability as he questions his choices when he can’t rely on his Iron Man suits to save those around him, and that’s when he shines like the Silver Centurion armor.
Pepper Potts, Stark’s girlfriend (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), has a bigger presence in “Iron Man 3” than in previous films. For the first time, she gets inside an Iron Man suit on the big screen, and when she does, watch out! Potts offers a strong female role model for young girls, as a smart and powerful woman who solves her own problems. Everyone needs a helping hand sometime, though, and she knows when to accept to Stark’s aid.
Don Cheadle expertly reprises his role as Col. James Rhodes. Cheadle, too, has become closely associated with his character, who suits up as War Machine. In the movie, though, he is renamed Iron Patriot in an effort to appeal to the American public. This leads to several funny incidents in “Iron Man 3.”
In addition to the acting performances, the appeal of “Iron Man 3” is its special effects. Director Shane Black gives audiences explosions, alien appearances and CGI in spades. Perhaps the most amazing effect, though, is when the pieces of each Iron Man suit zoom to Stark and assemble around him. Those scenes are quite believable and even offer a few laughs at times.
“Iron Man 3” comes to a satisfying, if predictable, conclusion. It has been assumed that this is the final film in the series, especially because Downey Jr. has fulfilled his contract for his role as Stark. Black manages to leave the door open, though, with a small note in the credits that states, “Tony Stark will return.” Perhaps in “The Avengers 2”?
“Iron Man 3” is rated PG-13 with good reason. There is profanity sprinkled through some scenes and suggestions of sex, as well as strong plot devices involving global terrorism, post-traumatic stress disorders and drug use. As a parent, though, I would be more concerned about the amount of violence young children will see with all the guns, explosions and hand-to-hand combat. Added to all this, there are very graphic scenes when the bad guys burn from the inside out because of an experimental regenerative process utilized by Mandarin. It really is the stuff of nightmares. If your young child loves Iron Man but isn’t ready for imagery and themes like this, you might be better off sticking to the Stan Lee comic books for now.
Of course, there’s also the Disneyland attraction, Iron Man Tech presented by Stark Industries, where guests can be fitted virtually with the Iron Man suits and see them on display for a limited time.