'Iron Man 3' Is More Serious Than Its Predecessors

Iron Man 3 once again features Robert Downey Jr. as the tech-savvy superhero in red. Billionaire Tony Stark, who is uncharacteristically anxious since the events of 2012's The Avengers, must face down a domestic terrorist without backup from his friends.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

"Iron Man 3" opened in theaters this morning - there were midnight showings for you crazy fans. The film once again stars Robert Downey Jr. as the tech-savvy superhero in red. But L.A. Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says this time around there's something different about Downey's role.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: If you remember the cocky, ultra-confident Tony Stark from the first two "Iron Man" films, you'll be surprised at the state he's in in "Iron Man 3."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: (as Tony Stark) I can't sleep, and when I do I have nightmares. Honestly, there's 100 people who want to kill me. I hope I can protect one thing I can't live without.

TURAN: That's right. This is a darker "Iron Man" movie than we're used to - more serious than its predecessors. And it's got the cast to prove it, including top actors like Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Rebecca Hall. Those changes to the franchise come courtesy of director/co-writer Shane Black. He worked with Downey on 2005's cult favorite private eye film "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang." The actor clearly enjoyed himself back then and Black's unmistakable style of oddball hyper-verbal dialogue has returned. Girlfriend Pepper Pots, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, lives in Stark's Malibu residence but nothing else is the same. The man is skittish, uneasy and given to compulsively building one high-maintenance Iron Man suit after another. It turns out Stark is dealing with anxiety attacks, after-effects of fighting off all those aliens in last summer's "The Avengers." Who knew? Stark's manic state is intensified by the televised manifestos of the Mandarin, a ruthless international terrorist, convincingly played by Kingsley. Outraged by the Mandarin's evil doings, Stark issues a personal challenge with catastrophic results.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "IRON MAN 3")

DOWNEY: (as Tony Stark) I know you're a coward so I've decided that you just die, pal. I'm going to come get the body.

TURAN: All of this leads to the question: Is Iron Man still Iron Man if he has to fight evil without the help of his suits? In posing this problem, "Iron Man 3" creates the kind of jeopardy we can believe in. For a superhero movie, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for the L.A. Times.

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