Review – Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is the film that Iron Man 2 wished it could’ve been.

The first sequel was generally disliked by both critics and comic-book fans for its underwhelming villains and rampant setups for The Avengers that distracted too much from the actual plot. Characters like Black Widow and Nick Fury made appearances, but their presence was a thinly veiled reminder to audiences that The Avengers was going to happen. The film lacked a satisfying climactic showdown, much like it did in the first film, and irritated some fans.

Iron Man 3 decides to step back from the worldwide scale set up by previous films and focuses the story on Tony Stark’s personal problems. The self-proclaimed billionaire playboy philanthropist now suffers anxiety attacks as a result of his near-death experience at the end of The Avengers, and deals with this problem by working long nights in his workshop tinkering with his suits. This creates friction with Pepper Potts, his girlfriend and CEO of Stark Industries, who feels that he obsesses too much over his suits.

The Iron Man series seems to love having rival companies play the villains, with the main antagonist being Aldrich Killian of AIM. For those of you who don’t read the comics, Aldrich Killian is a brilliant scientist who helps develop the Extremis virus. In this version, he’s the slimy corporate type who obviously has ulterior motives right from the moment he appears on screen. Seriously, his face just screams “Hey everyone! I’m the bad guy!”. Still, Guy Pierce is great in the role and it’s nice to see an antagonist that doesn’t just use Tony’s technology against him.

An interesting character that is introduced in this film is Harley, a young boy who befriends Tony and later assists him in the second act of the film. He isn’t shown in any of the ads or talked about in previews, but he plays a significant role in the film. With Tony isolated and fending for himself, Harley fills in the role of being a foil to Tony’s arrogant behavior. It was a good performance and had some chemistry going between him and Robert Downey Jr. My criticism is probably that, as with any kid included in this type of movie, he manages to survive life-threatening situations involving people who are deadly and much stronger than him. I guess with Disney now having a stake in the franchise, they can’t just have kids dying left and right, but you understand what I’m saying.

Compared with the other films, the narrative is much slower and takes its time to build up to the climax. Rather than trying to tie into the larger Cinematic Universe, it focuses on telling a self-contained story with Tony Stark doing things his own way. It works great with the way his character is and how he loves to do things his own way. Tony Stark is still the ego-driven asshole that he’s always been, and he is selfish. It’s only when things strike too close to what he holds dear does he spring into action and fights back. Tony Stark has always been a fantastic character with deep issues and an electric personality, so it’s always a joy when we get to explore his character like this.

The biggest change to the Iron Man mythos, and one that’s been heavily discussed since the movie’s release, is that of the Mandarin. Sir Ben Kingsley delivers a strong performance that keeps you guessing the Mandarin’s true intentions from the get-go. A lot of fans were initially concerned about the changes made to his character. The Mandarin originated in the comics as Iron Man’s archenemy who had supernatural powers derived from the ten rings on his fingers. This version of the Mandarin is very different, which shows him as the leader of a powerful terrorist organization seemingly based in the Middle East. There’s obviously more to him than meets the eye, and there’s a certain moment in the film where you will either completely love this version or hate the changes made to his origins. Frankly, I like what they did to bring him into a contemporary setting, and it took balls to go with the version that we see in the film.

I think my biggest problem with the entire movie is the ending. I’m avoiding spoilers, so I don’t want to go into detail over it. However, it has got to be one of the biggest rushed endings I have ever seen. It creates such a huge plothole wide open that it almost ruins the previous movies that came before. Why they decided to introduce this element, I have no clue. Perhaps they did it to signify just how much Tony Stark has changed over the course of three movies, and to do that they needed something drastic. Still, you wonder why they would show an ending with such little explanation.

Overall, I really enjoyed Iron Man 3, more so than the second film. It’s got all the thrills and laughs that you expect from a Marvel movie. The action is great, the performances are well-acted, and the character development has improved a lot. There are some pacing issues and the gaping plotholes, but it’s a fun movie. With all the talk of Robert Downey Jr. possibly not returning to the role, I’d say that this movie is as good as any to end his role as Tony Stark on a good note.

Lingering thoughts:

  • The post-credit scene was amusing. A certain shipping fanbase will at least love it.
  • The marketing team is successful for revealing so much in trailers and TV spots yet keeping all of the surprises a secret.
  • And so Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off!
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