IronMan3coverGrade:  A-
Entire family:  Yes . . . and no
2013, 130 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Bonus features:  C
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy

Robert Downey, Jr. makes Iron Man one of the most entertaining superheroes in the Marvel movie universe. He “gets” his character—a mega-rich wunderkind named Tony Stark who is just as quick to dip into an arsenal of deadpan, sarcastic “Who cares?” cuts and comebacks as he is the toolbox that keeps his Iron Man suit on the cutting edge of technology . . . and blockbuster movie action.

Taking his cue from director Shane Black, who penned the screenplays for all four Lethal Weapon films, Downey seems to ramp up the Larry David-like self-absorption and lack of warmth for comic effect in Iron Man 3, which seems to have a more comedy and more action than the previous two films. Depending on how you feel about sci-fi violence, children ages 10 and up might be able to watch it comfortably.

Iron Man 3 soars above first sequel and might even rival the 2008 debut for overall entertainment value. You laugh, you sit on the edge of your seat, and you marvel (yes, Marvel) at some of the visual effects—especially the destruction of Stark’s cliffside mansion, an airplane disaster rescue, and scenes involving explosive, firelit, lava-fleshed creatures called “Extremis.” 

IronMan3screenThis outing, Stark, who experiences occasional Tony Soprano-like panic attacks, has constructed dozens of Iron Man suits and has been working on a prototype for his own suit so that the flex of an arm commands the pieces to come to him. In the field, still operating an old suit dubbed “War Machine,” is Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). The villain is a terrorist who addresses the world on TV—someone who calls himself The Mandarin, played with equal measures of comedy and menace by Ben Kingsley, who seems to have drawn inspiration from Ming the Merciless from the old Flash Gordon serials. Is Iron Man up to the task of stopping someone with such a sophisticated tech side and more minions than Despicable Me’s Gru?

Add Stark’s continued relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, who gets to wear the suit this outing), a female scientist and geek (Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce) who’ve discovered a way to regenerate human body parts, and a Tennessee boy (Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener) who wants to be Iron Man’s sidekick, and the franchise has another winning formula. The kid/hero pairing we’ve seen before in such films as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but the writers seem to sense that too much cute kid can intrude on the overall tone of the film, and they restrain themselves (or rather, the kid). It’s yet another example of how the filmmakers’ instincts save the day almost as much as Iron Man.

Be warned, parents, that despite identical PG-13 ratings there’s more violence here than there was in the original Iron Man, but all the high-tech explosions, robotics, and sci-fi assassins keep the narrative moving at such a brisk pace that there’s barely time to react. Even then, the jokes provide a tonal cushion so that no one has too hard of a landing—well, except for those poor Extremis, who tend to explode if they get a little too hot and bothered, and also lose body parts rather easily. Then again, they seem more alien than human, more sci-fi than real, so that violence also seems blunted. My daughter is extremely sensitive to violence, and she didn’t shield her eyes at all. Sci-fi violence really is different.

Iron Man 3 has a runtime of 130 minutes, but to the film’s credit it never feels long. It’s highly entertaining, and it looks terrific in High Definition.