In 2008 Iron Man launched Marvel Studios tour de force line of superhero blockbusters, so it’s only fitting that Iron Man 3 kicks off Marvel’s Phase 2 series of films. After the grandiose team-up of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 narrows the scope down to Tony Stark and his own personal cast of characters while adding a few new names to the mix as well.
The film opens with images of cases of Iron Man armor being destroyed as Tony Stark narrates how he was brought to this point. Cue the opening Marvel Studios scroll along with the curious addition of Eiffel 65’s one-hit-wonder “I’m Blue,” as we flashback to New Year’s Eve 1999. Here we are introduced to a couple of new characters that will pop up later including Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce) and Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), creator of “Extremis,” along with Jon Favreau’s character Happy sporting a ridiculous mullet. Back in the present day, the existence of gods, aliens and monsters has caused the landscape of the world to change ever since the events of The Avengers. Tony Stark hasn’t been able to sleep since his Avengers near-death-experience and has been tinkering away on new Iron Man suits. America has been in the grip of the shadowy terrorist “The Mandarin” (Sir Ben Kingsley), who becomes a personal priority for our hero Mr. Stark. Stark sends an open invitation to his home and The Mandarin eagerly accepts, laying siege to Stark’s mansion and all of his toys. Tony escapes and ends up miles away in a Tennessee town with a powerless suit. Here he gains an unnecessary (?) sidekick of sorts in the form of a little boy named Harley, who helps Tony rebuild his suit and overcome his trauma. Tony uncovers the secret behind The Mandarin’s plot, as well as his many soldiers enhanced by the dangerously unstable Extremis. Stark wages war against The Mandarin’s forces along with his pal James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), now known as “The Iron Patriot.”
Like most big budget blockbusters, superhero movies are pretty formulaic in their delivery. Iron Man 3 follows the tried and true three-act-structure but it also makes a strange attempt at multiple themes, leaving the end product a little incoherent in its intended tone. Our hero is trying to deal with/avoid his PTSD in his own way, which causes a bit of turmoil for his personal life. He has crafted a new suit that is coded to his brainwaves, allowing him to assemble it by thought and control it without actually being inside of it. At one point it even responds to his subconscious while he is sleeping, and attacks girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) in their bed. This was a delightfully-twisted turn of events with serious implications but it was dropped as quickly as it was introduced. Halfway through the film there is also a shocking plot point that pulls the rug from underneath the audience. While this was definitely a surprise, it left me scratching my head a bit and lead to a somewhat underwhelming finale. The Extremis-powered henchmen have frustratingly-vague powers: they can explode, melt things, regrow limbs and in some cases breathe fire (?). Despite this, the visuals are without a doubt impressive; highlights including Iron Man rescuing a dozen people midair, video game-inspired battles and more Iron Man suits than you can shake a repulsor at. At the film’s climax Stark faces down the villain by jumping from suit to suit. While most likely extremely painful in practice, it also is pretty fun to behold. Much like The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3 devotes a lot of time to Tony Stark outside of his suit. This leads to a showcase of ingenuity on Stark’s part, which is probably only just barely pulled off due to Robert Downey Jr.’s amicability. It’s a fun movie though I’m still a little fuzzy on what the final lesson of Iron Man 3 actually is. I suppose if you boil it down it’s something like “Tony Stark is Iron Man, but he doesn’t need to be Iron Man to be Tony Stark…but he kind of does…I guess.”
Final Grade: ★★★ 3/5 Stars