The Avengers set the bar high. Really high. Shane Black had to walk onstage after Joss Whedon dropped the mic, daring anyone to follow that. Black followed it with the fantastic Iron Man 3, easily the best of the Iron Man series and arguably just as good as The Avengers.
Iron Man 3 is absolutely everything you could want out of an Iron Man movie, and a bunch of stuff you didn’t know you wanted.
Following the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark is a man with some damage. He can’t sleep and spends all his time in his workshop “tinkering” (which is how he goes from the mk 7 armor at the end of Avengers to the mk 42 armor he uses for the bulk of this film). He’s having panic attacks and when he can sleep he has night terrors. Basically, he’s not doing all that well after meeting some gods and fighting an alien army.
Only adding to his stress are the increasing attacks by The Mandarin, a terrorist whose videos are at times… uncomfortably close to ones we’ve seen in the real world.* The government has rebranded Rhodey’s War Machine armor as the Iron Patriot, a sort of metal Captain America that “tested well with focus groups” in order to take The Mandarin down. However, once one of the attacks makes things personal for Tony he takes it upon himself to handle things, which goes less than well.
Following that attack, Tony Stark has to build himself back up from the bottom with quite literally almost nothing. The way he does this is actually pretty great and absolutely true to the character. And just wait until you see the climactic battle scene, with the army of Iron Man suits you’ve seen in all the trailers. Tony does what can probably best be described as “armor-fu”, jumping in and out of different suits and using individual parts as weapons. It’s a fantastic set piece, though I do wish it was lit better so you could get a better view of what was happening.
Honestly, that minor quibble aside, Iron Man 3 is one of those rare films where every single moment works, even the parts that really shouldn’t (like Tony taking on a kid sidekick for much of the second act). Shane Black made a comic book movie very much through a Shane Black lens. It’s impossible not to see his fingerprints all over this thing, and that’s much to the film’s benefit. Marvel didn’t hire a director just film a movie the way they wanted him to, they took a risk and it paid off.
At this point, five appearances in (four starring roles and one cameo), we all know what to expect from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, right? Not quite. He’s still brash and a bit of a jerk, but some of the edges have been sanded off in a way he’s not really comfortable with. He’s lost some of his swagger, he’s less confident, less sure of himself. Downey plays this like a man who doesn’t know if he’s ever going to get that back.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is a little uneven, swinging a bit between an old-school Doctor Who companion desperately yelling “Tony!” and being a total badass. But, oh, those moments she gets to be badass. I think perhaps after seeing this movie maybe less people will make fun of Paltrow’s terrible blog.
The character most fans are going to be talking about leaving the theatre though is definitely Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. He absolutely steals the whole damn film. His breathlessly terrifying videos are nothing compared to the reality Tony Stark confronts.
I don’t have to tell you to go see this movie. You were going to do that anyway. I am going to tell you that you have nothing to worry about. Iron Man 3 is a goddamn good movie. And I can’t wait to see it again.
I give it 10 RINGS out of 10.
* – I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Disney has been shitting themselves over the past few weeks, knowing that they had a movie coming out soon that involves a terrorist and bombings.