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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Iron Man 3 is another big-budget entry in the Marvel universe, and after the immense popularity of 2012's The Avengers, it will have huge appeal for tweens, teens, and adults alike. The violence is as explosive, large-scale, and pulse-quickening as you'd expect from this franchise. While the body count and mass devastation aren't as high as in The Avengers, scenes of both extremely destructive public bombings and casual shootings could be disturbing; overall, there's a bigger "human" factor to the violence here than in Robert Downey Jr.'s previous Iron Man movies, which involved more robot/machine action. On the other hand, there's less sexuality here (aside from a mention of a one-night stand and shots of women in bikinis or bra and panties) than in the other two, and language is on the milder side (one "s--t" and "p---y," plus "goddamn," "jerk," "hell," "ass," etc.). Expect some drinking and product placement. Iron Man 3 is as much about Tony figuring out who he is without the suit as he is with it, and there are some mature themes about identity, anxiety, the dangers of unchecked power, and the necessity of a moral compass.
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What's the story?
Ever since "New York" (the climactic events of The Avengers), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) hasn't been the same, and everyone can see it in IRON MAN 3. He rarely sleeps, he spends most of his time creating more Iron Man suits, and he delegates his responsibilities to others. Stark Enterprises is in the hands of his beautiful professional (and personal) partner, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the civilian saving goes to Stark's courageous best friend, Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and his own suit, now renamed The Iron Patriot. But there's a new danger afoot in the form of terrorist leader The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who uses mutated soldiers as his weapons of choice in bombings around the world. When the villainous Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a scientist Tony spurned in 1999, kidnaps Pepper and destroys the Stark mansion, Tony must figure out how to save the love of his life -- and all of America, of course -- from the powers of evil.
Is it any good?
Although this sequel is fun to watch, when compared to The Avengers, it comes up short. On the positive side, Downey Jr. is always entertaining as Tony Stark/Iron Man, particularly in the flashbacks to 1999, when he's at his most self-aggrandizing, selfish playboy genius. Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), who takes over directing responsibilities from Jon Favreau (now a producer with a recurring supporting role), delights in Downey's gift for fast-talking banter and whip-smart one liners, but he also concentrates on Stark's newfound vulnerability and possible sense of unworthiness when compared to his fellow Avengers. For the first time, Stark is anxious. He knows how devastating it would be to lose the one thing he loves -- Pepper -- and he wonders whether Capt. America is right, and he's just a guy with a souped-up suit.
The Mandarin is an evilly delicious villain (you'll see), and Pearce's Killian is a formidably sleazy foil (and cautionary tale) about remembering who you've blown off in the past, but after a big reveal, the story folds up a little too neatly (save for one surprise), and Tony's anxiety attacks start to feel a wee bit over the top. Ultimately, if you watch all the way past the credits, you'll be rewarded with a cameo sequence that will excite Marvel fans and remind viewers that no matter how fun these individual superhero stories are, it's the promise of more Avengers that's the best.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movies in the Marvel universe. How does Iron Man 3 stack up against the other Avengers films? Do you prefer the individual superhero movies or The Avengers together? Why?
How has Tony changed since the events of The Avengers? How is this movie a response to Captain America's question about what Tony is without his suit? Why does Tony wonder whether he's as worthy as his other "super friends"?
Tony's going through an identity crisis in Iron Man 3. Which other superheroes have comparable moments of introspection of anxiety with their "super" gifts?
Are weapons of war glamorized in the movie? Should weapons be portrayed as that shiny and cool? What message does this send?
- In theaters: May 3, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2013
- Cast: Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Shane Black
- Studio: Paramount Home Media Distribution
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Robots
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Humility
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content
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