“Phase Two” of Marvel’s movie plans is to focus on personal stories instead of building an interconnected universe. Iron Man 3 is a good example of what we should expect for the big screen outings of our favorite super heroes. SHIELD does not appear and references to other Avengers are almost throwaway lines. The movie is focused squarely on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the people who surround him.
Iron Man 3 picks up where Avengers left off. While saving the world with the Avengers, Tony Stark/Iron Man came face to face with his own mortality and is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has bouts with insomnia, is prone to panic attacks, and paranoid to the point where he has a variation of the Iron Man armor guard him when he tries to sleep. Meanwhile, a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) has been launching attacks against America using an untraceable weapon. When one of the Mandarin’s attacks hurts someone close to Tony, he declares war and loses everything only to discover the horrifying secrets behind the attacks.
Iron Man 3 gives Robert Downey Jr. the opportunity to explore a side of Tony we haven’t seen: his vulnerable side. Despite the charmingly cocky exterior, Tony is suffering. He’s realized he’s not Superman but a man in a suit of armor, and it frightens him. And Iron Man can’t afford to be frightened. The bruising of his ego causes Tony to make a couple of major mistakes. Yet, despite this emotional baggage he still maintains the “cool under pressure” attitude that makes Iron Man great. Robert Downey Jr. sinks his teeth into this emotional arc and plays the character so naturally that you wonder if he’s acting at all.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts doesn’t get as much screen time in this film, but when she does, she plays a different Pepper then in the previous installments. Tony’s unraveling is causing a rift his relationship with Pepper. She feels locked out of his world and it’s starting to concern her. Pepper’s story sort of takes a cliché turn in the middle, but there’s a twist at the end that Pepper Potts (and Iron Man fans) will love.
Sir Ben Kingsley gets to truly show off his acting chops as the Mandarin. That’s all I can say without spoiling anything.
Action wise, a lot of Iron Man 3 takes place outside of the armor. It’s fun having to see Tony Stark rely on his brain rather then his gadgets. It reminds you that beneath the Iron Man armor is a “genius playboy” with a MacGyver like ability to build anything. But, don’t get me wrong there is plenty of Iron Man armor action. A whole army’s worth actually that comes fast and hard. The action scenes are well orchestrated and the CGI armor has a shiny metallic texture to it.
Overall, Iron Man 3 is a cocktail mixed with ideas from Marvel’s Extremis storyline by Warren Ellis, The Iron Giant, Batman Begins, and false flag conspiracy theories. At times it goes down smoothly, at times it burns, but once you’re finished, you’re satisfied. Go see it.
P.S. If you liked Iron Man 3 or like Super Hero movies in general, go to your local comic book store on Saturday for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. You get free comics from Marvel and DC. How can you say no to that?