“Iron Man 3”: The Mandarin’s Roar

Big dragon tattoos cover both shoulders, and his whole upper body glows red like flaming lava. He stands over Iron Man and flexes his huge muscles and screams, in a shot that looks ripped right from an awesome comic book, “I AM THE MANDARIN!” He can regrow limbs in seconds, melt metal with his hands, even breathe fire. He either wants to “own the war on terror” or out himself to the world as a spectacular maniac terrorist

Sir Ben Kingsley, everybody. Who saw that coming? “Iron Man 3” is a shocker.IronManMandarin

A lot is asked of Robert Downey Jr., who has made Tony Stark one of our classic movie characters in this age. He gets beat up so bad they had to pause production for a while due to an ankle injury. Stark is dark, fraught with anxiety. He has difficultly interacting with people, but he’s also a hilarious motor mouth.

Is he the best movie hero of the modern comic-book-blockbuster era? It’s him or Christian Bale as Batman, and you don’t remember those movies for Christian Bale.

Downey Jr. is apparently in contract negotiations to keep playing the character. He’s approaching 50, and has had an awesome run of “Iron Man” flicks. Give us one more “Avengers” movie, man, and then hang it up. Maybe Congress can pass a law decreeing no other actor may ever play Iron Man, or Joss Whedon could nip this in the bud by killing Iron Man in some glorious and heroic way at the end of “Avengers 2.” (That’d be sad for Pepper.)

“Iron Man 3” is great. There’s a hierarchy of bad guys Stark is forced to fight as he works his way to Mandarin, including one goon who’s super skilled with his bio-fire powers and incredibly difficult to kill. The action scenes are set all over, including on Air Force One. The director Shane Black’s only other movie was “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” a dialogue-heavy L.A. crime-comedy noir with Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. We knew he could keep the talking snappy, but here he balances funny moments with high-stakes fight scenes vastly cooler than any in the previous two “Iron Man” movies.

149785-fantastic-fourt-rise-of-the-silver-surferIron Man is also just so cool looking. The suits are on the cutting edge of modern sci-fi – flight-capable with supreme firepower. The other comic-movie heroes have either had corny costumes they barely make work (Captain America, Thor, Daredevil, Nick Fury); costumes that are OK, but constantly need tinkering because they’re a little off (Spider-Man, Superman). Then there’s the goofy haircuts (most of the X-Men, especially Wolverine), and the totally acceptable and well-rendered (Hulk, Batman, Hellboy). Then there’s the eye-sore disasters like Michael Chiklis as The Thing and Shaquille O’Neal as Steel.

Iron Man’s costume is a riding weapon, and it looks like a blast. You know the other heroes are jealous. But then again, it takes all the suits Stark has been obsessively making since aliens invaded New York City to beat the crazy-ass Mandarin. They don’t envy that task, guaranteed. The guy can breathe fire.

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