Marvel’s Phase 2 is officially underway with the release of Iron Man 3, and after everything I had heard about the movie and where the next series of films were going, the word that best describes the movie is “surprising.”
Set after the events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 spends a lot of time showing us what Tony Stark went through following a battle where a guy in a metal suit fought with a super solider, a green beast and a norse god against aliens from another dimension. Here lies one of the movie’s greatest strengths as Tony basically goes into shell shock after such a huge battle. It’s a completely logical reaction that puts Tony against a mental condition that can’t just be fixed with science and technology like his broken down body in Iron Man 2. Of course this wouldn’t be a super hero movie if there wasn’t some type of physical threat, and that’s where the Mandarin and extremis come in. Exremis is essentially a genetic steroid that destroys the body it’s given to only to rebuild it to an almost indestructible state. This makes regular people a match for Iron Man. Led by the Mandarin, soldiers injected with extremis turn into a terrorist organization set on killing the president of the United States and doing other things that terrorists do. Meanwhile Aldrich Killian, the man who developed extremis, has an axe to grind with Stark after an encounter before Tony became Iron Man that comes back to haunt him. Sir Ben Kingsley plays the Mandarin about as realistically as you could expect such an over the top villain to be portrayed in a movie, leading right into another one of the movie’s strengths. Surprises. This movie has more twists than a bag of pretzels. You never really know who is aligned with who, and at one point it seems to be more political thriller than action movie. Don’t worry, it hits plenty of those action notes though. I guarantee your jaw will drop more than once.
The action and special effects sequences are top notch of course. Like the previous couple of movies, Stark doesn’t actually spend too much time in the Iron Man suit, only this time there are a lot more suits and he doesn’t need to be in them in order to have them function, This premise is used in a lot of creative ways throughout the film, leading to some very unique and thrilling action sequences and even some dramatic moments. The much talked about attack on Stark’s Malibu home was very impressive, and even made you care about the sentient machines as the house is going down. The final battle also spares no expense, and found a way to match the single shot fight sequence featuring all of the Avengers by just having a ton of Iron Man suits doing the same thing (Hulkbuster FTW!)
A big part of this films success goes to Robert Downey Jr, who has his most developed performance as Tony Stark to date. Unlike the Iron Man 2, where Downey seemed to be doing an impression of himself, there is a real depth and natural progression to Tony’s behavior. The laughs and quirks are still there, but it comes with a certain charm that was previously missing. This is specifically so when Tony is without his suit and has to be a hero anyway. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts gets a little lost in the shuffle during the middle section of the movie, but comes on strong in the beginning and ending, essentially becoming as much of a hero as Stark. The same can’t necessarily be said for Happy and Rhodey but it isn’t Jon Favreau and Don Cheadle’s fault as there is only so much movie to go around. Rhodey specifically just gets dumped on for practically the entire film series now that I think about it.
One of the main questions supergeeks liked to ask was how could Iron Man work in a solo movie after the Avengers assembled. What is to keep him from calling his buddies if things got bad. In what was one of very few sticking points I had while watching, they do and don’t answer this question at the same time. On the one hand, you can see how Tony would not contact his superfriends (although it is revealed that he is still in touch with them) but on the other hand, somehow there is no presence of SHEILD as a terrorist group tries to kill the President with fire breathing super soldiers (yeah you read that right). I’d imagine that would be right up SHIELD’s alley.
There was a certain finality that came after the finale of the movie. Characters seemed to resolve all of their issues and move forward, passed the adventures of the last handful of films. If this indeed was Robert Downey Jr’s last appearance as Iron Man, his story was certainly told in it’s entirely. There is very little in terms of loose ends here.
I thoroughly enjoyed Iron Man 3 but not in the way that I thought I would. I expected an action packed movie filled with witty one liners and comic easter eggs that would leave me thinking as much about the next movie as I would this one. One I got instead was an interesting character piece with twists, heart and a personal journey to go along with those explosions and action scenes.
Also, of course you need to stay through the credits, but don’t expect the earth shattering reveals that you were getting in phase one.