It was bound to happen at some point.
Marvel Comics' streak of entertaining films comes to an end with "Iron Man 3" - a sporadically entertaining but ultimately underwhelming endeavor.
Coming on the heels of "The Avengers," this is a film that tries too hard to capture the same magic. The result is a film that never finds a way out of first gear.
"Iron Man 3" picks up with industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) struggling with his own identity, still scarred by the incidents in "The Avengers."
Things get worse for Stark when a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) makes Stark his latest target.
Stark sets out for retribution, determined to save the love of his life Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) while also coming to terms with his own demons.
"Iron Man 3" was co-written and directed by Shane Black, who is best known for the "Lethal Weapon" series, with Jon Favreau giving up the reins after directing the first two films. It's a rocky transition with Black's rapid-fire dialogue coming across as forced and slightly distracting.
It also feels like a failed attempt to recapture the style and wit from "The Avengers" that worked so well under Joss Whedon. It doesn't help the movie to feature tons of references to "The Avengers," which serves as a constant reminder of how much it pales in comparison.
"Iron Man 3" throws everything against the wall, desperately trying to find something that sticks. The inclusion of Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall helps somewhat, but when you feel the need to add a child character - which "Iron Man 3" does - then that's usually a red flag that the franchise is in trouble.
To his credit, Downey is still quite good in a role that he has obviously gotten comfortable with.
The ending hints a finality, at least for the "Iron Man" portion of the Marvel series, but I would be surprised if that is the case.
I do think the franchise, which counting "The Avengers" has included four films in the last six years, probably needs a break.
Maybe if everyone takes a little time and steps away, this is a series that can find its footing again in future endeavors.
Also in theaters
While "Iron Man 3" disappoints, another of the week's new releases, "Mud," (B) is a solid piece of filmmaking.
The latest from writer/director Jeff Nichols, who previously wrote and directed "Take Shelter," this is an engaging coming of age story with Matthew McConaughey continuing his string of good work.
While McConaughey has a prominent role in "Mud," the film actually centers on Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) - a pair of Arkansas teens who befriend a drifter named Mud (McConaughey).
Mud is a fugitive hiding on a remote island, with the boys agreeing to be liaisons between Mud and his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).
Ellis soon starts to see parallels in Mud's relationship and the crumbling relationship between his mother and father, learning that not every couple can have a happy ending.
Like he did in "Take Shelter," Nichols does a superb job in capturing the nuances of a small town in "Mud."
Sheridan and Lofland are naturals in their respective roles, giving an authenticity that only enhances the material.
McConaughey continues to shine in interesting roles. At one point, it looked like his career would be nothing but a series of bad romantic comedies, but this is another instance where he plays against that romantic lead persona. It's a role as good as his work in last year's films "Bernie" and "Killer Joe."
My one small complaint with "Mud" is the final 10 minutes, which get a little more conventional than I had hoped. It's a small letdown in a movie that for the most part is full of life and passion.
"Mud" is rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page attwitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at email@example.com.
Credit: By MICHEAL COMPTON The Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org /783-3247
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