The Other Man of Steel (“Iron Man 3”)

They say there are only seven original stories (14, if you count their opposites) and every other story is just a retelling of one of the originals. With that in mind, Iron Man 3 is basically the opposite of The Dark Knight Rises.

We’ve talked before about how Tony Stark is (in the movies, anyway) The Opposite of Bruce Wayne: Bruce sees his mission as a grim duty, Tony “privatizes world peace” as a hobby. Bruce has an unknowing army of R&D people and foreign manufacturers making is toys; Tony whips his up in this basement. Only a handful of people know Bruce is really Bats; the whole world knows who’s inside the red and gold suit. Bruce can’ seem to maintain a stable relationship; Tony has sleepovers with the most beautiful woman in the world—literally. But the biggest difference is Batman’s world was based in “reality” as closely as possible; Iron Man’s world never lets you forget, “It’s only a comic book.”

Tony Stark isn’t sleeping nights, he’s haunted by “what happened in New York” (the events chronicled in The Avengers)—and the government won’t let him go after the international terrorist calling himself the Mandarin. When a Stark employee is injured in one of the Mandarin’s attacks, Tony makes it personal—and so does the Mandarin. Tony finds himself homeless and armor-less, days away from the attack the Mandarin says will teach America a lesson it will never forget.

Iron Man 3 is first of all, fun! It’s everything a big summer movie should be, which is why, by summer movie conventions (yeah, and summer doesn’t even really start until June) it’s a perfect popcorn movie. It’s also the first comic book-based movie that truly plays like a comic book: words like character development and motivation are replaced by BLAM! and KA-POW! Yet it’s all exhilarating rather than exhausting. (They do make one nod to nuance, and having done that, they move on.) And it’s always interesting. But it’s not perfect by a long shot. There are plot holes galore, that are explained away by other plot holes. But it all moves so fast you don’t care. Not too much, anyway.

The special effects are spectacular and unobtrusive (the CGI stand‑ins don’t look like CGI), the performances are great. And the now-obligatory after the credits scene is worth the wait.

Iron Man 3 begins Marvel’s Phase Two, which includes new movies for Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Avengers 2 and Ant Man (???). They’re off to a good start.

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