Oh my, Iron Man 3 is finally upon us. As the first summer blockbuster of the year, as well as the first movie of Marvel’s Phase Two, Tony Stark had a lot riding on this one. And with a new director, fans were, understandably, a little nervous about whether or not Iron Man 3 could compare to hype set by last year’s The Avengers.
Well, fresh out of the theater, I can enthusiastically say, yes! Iron Man 3 can absolutely hold its own alongside the rest of Marvel’s movies, and in fact, it’s one of the better of the bunch, proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Iron Man 3 is a more personal tale for our beloved Tony Stark. Taking place about a year or so after the events of The Avengers, Tony is a mess. He can’t sleep, has anxiety attacks whenever New York is mentioned, and is just all around not himself. Feeling out of touch with his own world, he ends up pushing those closest to him further away, and then struggles to regain both his ego, and his mentality.
And that’s what is so great about Iron Man 3; it just gets Tony Stark. While the previous two Iron Man movies have both done a great job with the character, it’s Iron Man 3 that really pulls away his egotistical facade and shows us the man underneath the image.
Robert Downey Jr. has always, and forever will be, Tony Stark. He plays the arrogant, sarcastic character with ease, and it’s nothing but fun watching him on-screen. However, unlike in his previous performances, Downey’s portrayal of Stark here is much deeper and more intimate. We get to see a side of him we’ve never really seen before, and it grounds the movie even when the plot does some risky things.
Iron Man 3’s story is one I can imagine will cause some divide among fans, as it’s really nothing like what is shown in the trailers. On one hand, it means that, if you can successfully avoid spoilers (which I highly suggest you do), there are some delightful twists in play.
But on the other hand, some of these twists cause some suspension of disbelief, and while the Mandarin is probably one of the better foes Tony’s faced, the way he’s seen here might irritate some diehard comic fans, as it really strays from the source material.
For me, however, when I go in to watch a superhero movie, I treat the comics as a blueprint that is used to inspire the director and give the audience a baseline. So in my opinion, Iron Man 3 didn’t cross a lone that bothered me, and while the Mandarin is nothing like I expected, I still enjoyed him.
Ben Kingsley seems like he’s having a ton of fun with the part, and it’s nice seeing him in a role that doens’t require him to be grim-faced all the time. In fact, the whole cast here is wonderful, with only one exception. Guy Pearce, besides Downey Jr., is the standout, and his character is surprisingly deep and multidimensional, and part of the film’s excitement comes from seeing just who exactly he is, and how deep his motivations go.
Gwyneth Paltrow is back as the lovable Pepper Potts, and I was glad to see she had more material to work with this time around than in the previous movies, where she had a more confined role. While she still can’t be considered one of the heavy hitters, I loved how involved she was in the finale, and how important she really seemed to be to the plot and Tony specifically.
One other thing I really loved was how Tony was actually given a sidekick, in the form of a young boy. It did seem a bit odd at first, having Tony talk so openly with a ten or twelve-year old boy, but the kid proved that he’s just as witty as Tony, and the two had some really great chemistry that ignited the middle portion of the film.
As for that one exception, well, that would be Rebecca Hall’s character Maya Hansen. While not a bad character, she’s quite likable in fact, she’s given very little dimension and focus, and ends up being more of distracting side-character than a fully realized player in the plot.
But, this is forgivable because, overall, the cast is great. Once again though, I imagine the plot will probably cause some conflicting opinions amongst the fans. One reason would be because it’s slightly unexpected and goes places you really didn’t see coming. While I personally loved the dimensionality of the evolving storyline, it’s easy to see how it could frustrate fans with some of the liberties it takes.
With that said, however, new director Shane Black does a fantastic job tying all the many pieces together for an ending that really stands out as a highlight among the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I did really enjoy what Jon Favreau did with Iron Man in the first two movies (and thus was glad he got to revise his role as Happy Hogan here), Black imbues Iron Man 3 with his own signature style that really makes the movie feel like something all its own.
So even though it does build on the things started in the first two movies, and deals a lot with the events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 feels like a completely new take on Tony Stark and his superhero persona.
One of the only major complaints I have about Iron Man 3 is how its all wrapped up in the end. It’s true that I really loved the climax, as it finally gave Iron Man a fitting opponent to duke it out with, but the way Tony ties up the (somewhat major) loose ends through a monologue at the end kind of made the conclusion seem rushed. Not a crippling flaw, but one that did irritate me a bit.
Overall though, Iron Man 3 proves that Marvel knows exactly what it’s doing with their movies, and delivers yet another explosively exciting flick that I can only imagine will get better and better with repeated viewings.
While not quite as great as the first Iron Man, and just under The Avengers in terms of explosiveness, it more than makes up for the blunders of Iron Man 2, and stands on its own as one of the best movies in Marvel’s universe, and any fan owes it to themselves to check it out.