**1/2 (out of four)
For the record: The "Iron Man 3" action sequence in which Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) plucks people out of the sky as they plummet to the ground kicks all kinds of ass. It feels like director/co-writer Shane Black put parachutes on an entire film crew and tossed 'em out of a plane. What a scene.
The rest of "Iron Man 3"? Hardly that exhilarating. That's partly because I find the egotistical Stark's incessant quippiness increasingly obnoxious rather than charming or funny. A kid tells him his dad bailed on him six years ago, and Stark basically says, "Grow up, you baby; it happens." He's not growing more intriguing as a character from the entertaining first "Iron Man" to the disappointing sequel to this third installment, which falls somewhere in between.
Stark battles a villain known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who's anti-American and anti-fortune cookie (really) as he carries out terrorist bombings. Meanwhile, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) oversees a scientific process that enhances capabilities of the human body, which Stark's main squeeze Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) deems too susceptible to weaponizing people.
Speaking of Pepper: If your boyfriend carelessly shared your address with enemies and you were almost killed when they attacked your house, would you shrug it off when he apologized remotely? Stark's girlfriend should expect more from her man.
Off the bat, Stark's self-correcting voiceover feels like Black still is writing "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," from which he takes a basic concept and uses it as an "Iron Man 3" plot twist. More problematically, he shies away from numerous complicated questions, like when Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) tells Stark the Mandarin is American business, not superhero business, and Stark pretty much does what he wants anyway.
Though Black engineers some extremely well-shot action, he needs to answer why Stark should get away with building an army of machines and someone else is evil for building an army of people, particularly with the use of a development that can repair damaged limbs.
Hate the innovator, as they say, not the innovation.
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