About a week or so ago, I was fortunately able to catch Iron Man 3 in a theater despite me utterly detesting the idea of crowding into a cinema these days- well, little chance of that, seeing as how during the movie’s first week of release, pretty much EVERY theater was showing Iron Man 3. Still, after a week of opening I still sat in a full house watching the third installment of the Iron Avenger’s adventures. So, is the third time the charm?
To set up some things though, I have to say that while I am quite the comic geek, I have never been an Iron Man fan. Never bought a single issue of the comic(s), never really liked the character (although I am familiar with his story and background) and liked him even less after the Civl War comics arc. Well, that all said I absolutely LOVED the first film, and consider it among the best superhero films out there. The second film, while entertaining, not as good- it just felt scatterbrained, here-and-there and a bit, well, by the numbers.
And now, Iron Man 3 (directed by Shane Black). The film opens up with a flashback showing Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) with scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), the inventor of Extremis, an experimental treatment meant to enable regeneration of the body from crippling illnesses or injury. They meet Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), a handicapped scientist who invites them to join his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics (Dun-Dun-DUUUUN). Stark balks at the offer btw kicking sand into the disabled Killian’s face. Yep, that won’t bite him in the arse years later.
The film snaps back to present day, some time after the events in The Avengers (the movie nicely references the previous Marvel blockbuster with various bits- watch it if you haven’t, duders). We then learn that Tony has gotten a bit of trauma after the Chitauri Invasion- apparently getting almost trapped in another galaxy with evil aliens can do that- so Tony’s been moping about and spending all his time building Iron Man suits- enough that love interest and current Stark Industries CEO Pepper Potts (the ever-lovely Gwyneth Paltrow) is feeling friction. Meanwhile, America is under siege from a Bin Laden-esque terrorist mastermind known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who is able to trigger devastating bombings without leaving trace evidence or leads for the authorities (and presumably military drone strikes or SHIELD agents) to follow.
This inevitably leads to the Mandarin’s terror attacks hitting Tony where it hurts, and throws the billionaire superhero into the crosshairs of an elusive, deadly and deceptive enemy. Soon Tony Stark is on the run, without his armor or his bucks to help, and everything he loves and values is endangered by a seemingly unstoppable foe… where are the Other Avengers when you need them??!
Fortunately, despite the odds, TONY STARK is well in control of the situation- yeah, with the help of a kid sidekick on occasion and his own super brainy skills. It all makes for a pretty engaging, well-paced and often humorous action thriller and easily the best of the Iron Man trilogy for me.
What makes the movie work for me, yet again, is Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark. Once again, Downey’s fast-talking, often bratty but always likable and funny but flawed protagonist is a joy to watch, follow and root for, more here than in any of the previous movies. I think it’s here that we really get to see the stuff that Stark is made of (not of wolves and snow, mind you). For a good part of the film Tony is out of his super-powerful armor, and has to contend with situations using just his brain and normal brawn. Granted, he’s a freakin’ genius and in pretty good shape but still, it’s a refreshing change that this time it’s more Man than Iron. That said, the many situations where Tony uses his armor- often in parts- make for imaginative and cool action sequences.’
The villains this time are bigger in scale than the previous baddies and threats in the previous films, and I guess it necessitates the big finale battle that reminds me of the old school Bond films where a large good guy cavalry comes to help save the day. The enemies do look and feel quite dangerous and formidable. I do recognize that many viewers, particularly comic fans, will be disappointed or even dismayed at how the Mandarin was portrayed- but I actually found it quite neat.
SPOILER WARNING. Yeah, it may have made for some cool visuals to have Ben Kingsley whip out his Ten Power Rings but can there really be any other conclusion than Iron Man punching the lights out of the poor old dude? I think the whole reveal of the Mandarin AKA Trevor Slattery comes from left field and Kingsley’s performance was darn hilarious and pretty memorable. END OF SPOILERS.
Aside from pretty cool CG and stunt setpieces, I enjoyed how true to the rest of this series this third installment and finale was. If you loved either the first or both earlier films, this will please you immensely as well. I found it tremendously engaging, entertaining and a wonderful watch.
I’ve read and heard all sorts of rumors of Downey not coming back to the franchise after this, though we clearly will see him back as Stark at least in Avengers 2. With Iron Man 3 pretty much (no surprise to me) breaking the box office worldwide, Marvel would be stupid not to demand RDJ back in The Suit indefinitely (hey, it works with a certain Pirate Lord of the Caribbean). Downey isn’t just the actor who plays Tony Stark- he IS Tony Stark.
Anyway, if this be the end or not, Iron Man 3 is a great capper to what I feel is easily perhaps the best superhero trilogy you can watch. If you haven’t already, catch it in theaters and enjoy the ride. And STAY after the credits, of course.