Metal and mettle

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Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark (hint: he’s Iron Man) in “Iron Man 3.”

Third ‘Iron Man’ is a test — for both Stark and the viewers

Billionaire industrialist and inventor Tony Stark takes a beating in Iron Man 3. Unfortunately, so does the audience.

In this third feature based on the Marvel Comics character, director Shane Black treats his viewers as if they were attention-starved adolescents. And while that may indeed mark the targeted demographic, those not in that select grouping might find this Iron Man 3 a loud, garish, brainless assault on the senses. And it will probably gross a couple billion dollars.

IM3 definitely delivers the expected. But, in between too many deadly languorous sequences, the anticipated action comes lumped together with little restraint or need to channel its excesses. The numerous battle sequences lack consistent, coherent choreography, as Black throws his characters at the screen in a jumble —often a close-up jumble — resulting in confusion as to who is doing what to whom.

The battle lines unfold early so that it's easy to tell the good guys — Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a.k.a. Iron Man, and his girlfriend and professional assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — from the bad guys — evil inventor Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and master terrorist Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).

After a too-long preamble furnished by Black and Drew Pearce’s screenplay, some sort of a story develops around Killian’s discovery of how to recode genes, enough so that he has given erratically defined super-powers to himself and his elite army. In league with the Mandarin, Killian plots to bring down America, or maybe the world, or who knows what exactly.

This face-off enables Black to deliver multiple versions of the Iron Man figure, all geared to destroy buildings, cities, oil rigs, people and various other targets. Combined with the Mandarin’s real terrorist threats, the violence, if not so clumsily executed, could have been uncomfortably familiar considering recent events in this country.

And even if Tony Stark and his Iron Man are cartoonish, comic strip creations, director Black pushes minimal plausibility by blowing him up, battering him and dragging him through various disasters, only to see the smarmy billionaire bounce up like the roadrunner to fight again while dropping one-liners.

Along with the muddled action sequences and the unexceptional special effects, some of which look like Terminator vintage, the consistent efforts to deliver Stark’s quick quips have become tiresome and less likely to draw laughs. Downey’s incessant mugging, like much in this latest edition, has simply become too familiar and too trite.


Iron Man 3


Rated PG-13, 130 minutes.

Opens Friday.


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