“Iron Man 3” kicks off the summer movie season with a metallic bang! I’m Keith Kelly, and my review is coming your way right now.

Robert Downey Jr. is back in the saddle again-or make that “armor”-as brilliant inventor/industrialist/playboy Tony Stark, who is also known as the metal-suited superhero Iron Man.

A lot of film series run out of gas by the time they get to their third entry-especially action movies. I’m happy to say that’s NOT the case with “Iron Man 3”. One of the reasons it’s hard to make great sequels is that it gets tough for the filmmakers to come up with ever escalating action and situations that are credible. In their zeal to up the ante and please audiences who want bigger, better and louder, many times the hero becomes less and less of a real human being, and the action becomes too over the top. The films become more about set-pieces and less about the human struggle.

Real life heroes like Policeman and Fireman are faced with horrors on a daily basis that shake their resolve and their courage-and yet have to wake up the next day and go right back into the heat.

Well that’s the situation for Tony Stark, who isn’t having an easy go of it in “Iron Man 3”. He’s actually feeling mental repercussions from his adventures with The Avengers. I won’t get into spoilers in this review, but suffice it to say that Tony isn’t as gung-ho as he once was. His life, the world and the Marvel Universe on film have all changed. Earth seems easy prey. Tony knows-he’s looked evil in the eye and barely survived-and he’s suffered for it.

The outward threat and visible bad guy in this chapter is of the down-to-earth variety-a world terrorist-“The Mandarin” played beautifully with equal parts creepiness and humor by Ben Kingsley. Things get personal, and Iron Man has to shake off his anxiety and rise up to the challenge all while being emotionally and physically unguarded.

This film was really more about Tony Stark than Iron Man-which was a smart move. Heroism isn’t just about having a particular super-power or amazing gadgets-it’s more about the person behind the actions. Downey has amazing talent and displays an Oscar-level performance in this film. I can’t think of any living actor that could bring the nuances that Downey brings to Tony Stark. The rest of the cast is top-notch also. Former director John Favreau is back as Happy Hogan and has some nice light-hearted bits. Don Cheadle returns as Colonel James Rhodes with a part that lets him showcase a little more of his acting prowess. Gwyneth Paltrow gets to do more than just scream, and Guy Pearce joins the cast as slimy rival business guy Aldrich Killian.
The sub-plot is engaging and intriguing and helps pose a credible threat to our hero. For you fellow comic book geeks there are a lot of bones thrown your way, but be warned that this film does take large liberties with characters and situations. I was fine with the changes-especially those of The Mandarin. If “Iron Man 3” stuck close to the original 1964 version of this foe, he would have been laughed off the screen.

For me, it’s the little moments that help make this film shine, especially some of the quiet scenes with young loner Harley Keener.

So go out and enjoy “Iron Man 3”, co-written and directed with finesse by Shane Black. It’s got everything you need in a summer blockbuster, thrilling action, colorful characters, great dialogue and real performances with substance. It’s a fun popcorn movie with an indie heart, and earns a grade of “A”. I’m Keith Kelly.

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