As a sequel not only to Iron Man and Iron Man 2 but also to The Avengers, Iron Man 3 has a lot to live up to. The Avengers changed everything, not only for the characters involved but for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well; how do you sell these characters as solo acts again?
Luckily Marvel has employed some very smart people because as it turns out Iron Man 3 follows up nicely on a everything that preceded it, is one of the strongest stand alone films produced by Marvel to date and is probably the prefect anchor for the second phase of Marvel films.
Unfortunately in reviewing this there are going to be what could be considered some very mild spoilers involved. I promise that I won’t reveal anything big and keep the rest to a minimum, but if you want to go in blind (which I recommend you do) then just know that this is a movie I absolutely recommend seeing and stop reading right now. If you want to know what I think in detail, hit the jump.
You’re still here? Alrighty then.
The film picks up sometime after The Avengers and Tony has become somewhat of a recluse, suffering from PTSD and anxiety attacks not just from the near death experience in New York but also from the “I’m just a guy, they’re a god, a monster and a super soldier” aspect of what happened.
Pepper is head of Stark Industries, Happy Hogan is the head of security. The Mandarin is committing terrorist attacks around the globe and Aldrich Killian, someone from Tony’s Past has just reemerged with some shiny new technology called Extremis.
Tony starts looking into things after Happy Hogan is injured in an attack and suffice to say after the massive attack on his home you saw in the trailers he ends up in the middle of nowhere with nothing (which you also saw in the trailers) and befriends a kid to help him and keeps investigating.
That’s about all I can tell you plot wise. The film has a few twists and turns, and one in particular which I WILL NOT spoil (and if you are thinking about it, don’t. Just don’t.)
Robert Downey Jr. is great here just being Robert Downey Jr. It seems he may have been born for the role. This might be the best, and most complete, story arc that Tony Stark goes through in the films so far and Downey nails it.
Ben Kingsley is inspired as the Mandarin. I’m pretty critical of him generally, he seems to take any role that’s offered to him and that doesn’t always work out, however this is a film that shows us again that he’s a great actor.
Guy Pearce is great as Killian, smarmy and duplicitous and everything a good villain should be. Unfortunately both Jon Favreau and Rebecca Hall as Happy Hogan and Maya Hansen don’t really get to do much, both their characters basically boil down to plot devices.
Don Cheadle finally gets a chance to actually, you know, do something as the Iron Patriot and since his character actually has things to do he finally gets to own it, and own it he does.
The standout for me though is Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s been around since the start and I’ve been hoping that she’d get to take on some of her comic book awesomeness and finally she does.
It’s awesome to see Pepper Potts and Rhodey finally get to be badasses and it’s fantastic to see them being played by actors who can handle the characters while it’s happening.
And speaking of badassery, this movie has some seriously good action sequences. From the attack on Tony’s house and the rescue from the plane which you saw some of in the trailers to the big action set piece ending (which you’ve seen one hero shot from in the trailers) Iron Man 3 might have the best action sequences we see this year, some of the best we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, and easily the best in any of the Iron Man movies.
Look, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s got some cliches, it’s got some weird beats, and am I the only one who thinks that Robert Downey Jr’s schtick is getting a little worn out? You know what though? The few bits where these things are true are far outweighed by the parts which are completely awesome.
Shane Black basically invented the modern action-comedy film and he seems like he might have been the perfect choice to direct this movie. Most of his films involve a damaged protagonist fighting back against ridiculous odds, the only difference here is that the protagonist is a superhero and not a cop.
That the film plays more like a detective story for most of the first and second acts works really well in showing that Tony Stark is more than just “a man in a can” and working through Tony’s PTSD, even through the trope of “protagonist befriends a kid” in the second act (which admittedly works really well).
Finally when all is said and done Black has manage to tie up all the loose ends for these characters from both the Iron Man franchise and The Avengers, he’s crafted a massive action set piece that is simultaneously great AND involved in said character arcs, and in the process he’s managed to put Tony Stark on the same footing as a god, a monster and a super soldier for the forthcoming Avengers 2.
Iron Man will of course be around for Avengers 2 but I kind of hope that it’s the last of his stand alone films because its a perfect ending to his story and leave him in a position much like The Hulk at the end of The Avengers: fully realized and ready for action.
So what are you waiting for? Go to the movies already.
PS: notice I didn’t talk about the twist because it shouldn’t be spoiled. I might write something about it in the next week or so once everyone has had a chance to see it for themselves.
PPS: So far that’s 2 Good, 1 OK, and 1 Bad of my Most anticipated of the year. Not bad!