THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Iron Man 3 picks right up after the events of The Avengers and is the opening film for Marvel’s Phase Two of their cinematic universe. It shows a different side of Tony Stark, one where he isn’t always in one hundred percent control of the situation or even himself. Going up against impossible odds as the enigmatic Mandarin sends the fight to Tony’s very doorstep, he is forced to come full circle not only as Iron Man, but as himself in order to save the day.
The film begins as Tony is telling us that ever since the alien invasion of New York he has been having trouble sleeping, but we soon realize that the situation is far worse for him. He’s having severe panic attacks, and becoming distant to those he cares about which leaves him constantly tinkering and building new things. After a series of terrorist bombings across the globe are claimed by The Mandarin and one that leaves Tony’s ex bodyguard Happy (played by Jon Favreau) in a coma, Tony challenges The Mandarin to a show down man to man. The Mandarin responds by destroying Tony’s home and leaves him with basically nothing but the shirt (or suit) on his back. He is forced to get back into the fight by using what makes him who he really is, his intelligence.
The journey of our hero is the meat of the story here in Iron Man 3. As an audience, we are so used to Tony having everything at his disposal being that he is a billionaire, but now he’s in the middle of nowhere with no gadgets or toys, all while being hunted by The Mandarins forces. Robert Downey Jr. once again shines as the brilliant but egotistical Tony Stark, never once losing his edge even when he’s down and defeated. Over the past two Iron Man films and even in The Avengers, there’s always been a balance between having Downey as Tony and him in the Iron Man armor. Here we get an overwhelmingly amount of Tony Stark and I really thought it paid off at the end. Director Shane Black had big shoes to fill when Jon Favreau left and he could easily of had Downey just go from battle to battle relying heavily on the different armors Tony builds, but he lets Downey take the character to another level and show us that he’s more complex than just witty one liners and a suit.
The film takes a different tone than what we are used to in the other Iron Man movies. Having Stark strike out on his own and slowly piecing together the attacks and who The Mandarin really is becomes a long process instead of a couple of scenes where he and his computer A.I. companion Jarvis just map everything out. Instead, Tony is forced to make new friends and rely on old ones in order to succeed. This is kind of hit or miss since one of the people he befriends is a young kid, who just happens to have a workshop in his garage and everything Tony needs in order to repair his damaged suit. They play off each other like a comedy duo, and the kid holds his own with Downey but it just seems out of place for a movie where the stakes are so high for our hero.
Now I mentioned before that this film doesn’t rely heavily on Tony kicking ass in his suit, but make no mistake there are plenty of great action sequences with and without the suits. Stark takes a beating in this movie, but manages to narrowly escape each danger with quick thinking and a few surprises up his sleeves. The special FX are everything you would expect from a Marvel movie; crisp, exciting, and fun. The Mark 42 prototype suit brings a whole new element to the game being able to be controlled by Tony’s mind and can go to him no matter where he is. The final fight between The Mandarin and the Iron Legion (all of Starks Iron Man suits) is outstanding and had me grinning like a kid throughout the finale. Of course in true geek fashion I loved seeing the different suits being displayed in the fight, each showing the special aspects they had. Watching Tony switch from suit to suit did get a little repetitive at times, but overall the action was the best in the series so far.
As far as the villains go, they left a little to be desired. Sir Ben Kingsley does a great job as The Mandarin, putting everything he’s got into making him a terrifying maniac. He comes off as cold hearted, calculating, and willing to kill innocents to put America on her knees. They take a different path with this character in the film as opposed to his comic book counterpart where he is a sorcerer that gains his powers from ten magic rings he receives from a crashed alien ship. Here he is the figure head of the terrorist organization known as The Ten Rings, which is the same group that kidnapped Tony in the very first Iron Man. With all the buildup that Kingsley’s character is given, the film never really delivers and ultimately leaves you wondering what could have been had they gone a different route.
I would be doing a great disservice to you as a nerd to not mention that this film takes some of its source material from the comic book story arc Extremis. Extremis is a serum that enables scientists to hack into a living organisms mind and controls the part of the brain that is used in repairing the human body. The scientists who create the Extremis project are Dr. Aldrich Killian (Pearce) and Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). These two each play a huge role in Tony’s life as he refers to them at the beginning as his “own personal demons.” Pearce’s character reminds me of Obadiah Stane from the first Iron Man, an evil genius who wants to profit from his discovery. He uses his Extremis patients as weapons which are given to The Mandarin. I enjoyed his character though, we see him as a desperate nerd at the beginning of the film who turns into the slick business man who has all the confidence in the world and has motive against Tony Stark.
It would be incredibly difficult to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, but if this was his last portrayal as Iron Man he went out with a bang. Watching him go through the ringer from Iron Man all the way up to Iron Man 3 was a great pleasure as he did the character justice. Although Iron Man 3 doesn’t surpass the first film, it comes pretty damn close. It’s fun to see Stark out of his element fighting to survive and cope with his problems, and it was refreshing to have a villain that isn’t wearing the same suit of armor as Iron Man is. Overall the movie is executed well, and is certainly a great kickoff to the summer movie blockbusters.