The first summer blockbuster of the year is here. Does “Iron Man 3” starring Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle and more live up to “The Avengers” or this an “Iron Man 2” sized disappointment?

The Good 

First, let me just say that the change in director from Jon Favreau to Shane Black was a great choice. Not that Favreau did a bad job, but Black infuses some much needed freshness to the series without re-inventing the wheel. As always, RDJ shines as Tony Stark/Iron Man with some hilarious quips. Black ups the ante on the action and Kingsley is clearly having a good time playing the Mandarin, though I’m still not a huge fan of his accent (and yes I listened to interviews describing why the accent is that way). Cheadle and Paltrow are serviceable, though nothing particularly impressive in their performances.

But for all the explosions, fight scenes and special effects, my favorite moments, though extremely brief, is Stark’s relationship with the young boy whose father deserted him, which I find very fascinating that in a movie built to be a big summer movie, it’s the small moment that really creates the most magic. That’s not to say the action is bad, particularly the much hyped plane scene and Stark’s mansion being attacked are pretty darn cool. Those looking for a good summer action film won’t be disappointed. There’s a few plot twists in here that, in the moment, seem somewhat surprising, though others are fairly predictable. The film is also a lot better because, unlike “Iron Man 2”, there s an interesting villain in the Mandarin and it’s not setting up “The Avengers”. The film is allowed to stand on its own without too much worry about phase 2.

All in all, the humor works, there are no bad performances and the action is fun to watch. It’s everything you want in a summer action blockbuster.

The Bad 

I couldn’t help but notice some big, kind of jarring, tonal shifts. One second the movie asks us to care deeply about what’s going on. The next, it returns to a live-action cartoon and almost laughs at us for caring about what happens in the movie. Now, this is Black’s style, giving you all the tough guy cliches and then making fun of people for loving those cliches. But it’s just somewhat off putting to see such serious shifts in tone.

I also wish Maya (Rebecca Hall) got much more screen time. She has one of the best scenes in the film, bar none, with Pepper Potts that is one of the most touching scenes in the film. I imagine it’d be even more effective if she was given more time to develop.

The Final Word

This is a great kick-off to summer. This is everything you expect from an “Iron Man” film and, arguably, is my favorite of the three films. Black has a great script and RDJ is on his game. If you can look past the jarring tonal shifts in the film, “Iron Man 3” takes its place among Marvel Studio’s best films to date.

Lukas Eggen can be reached at eggen.lukas@gmail.com.

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