a critiQal film review Iron Man 3 (2013)

Plot: When Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

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With Avengers: Infinity War (2018) finally arriving this May, it seemed a good time to go back through and catch up on the films that we haven’t reviewed. First up: Iron Man 3.

After seeing Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), the bar was set pretty high for this third film. The first film basically ushered in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, while the second film upped the ante and amped up the Iron Man. True, the second film wasn’t able to keep the entertainment value quite as high as the first. Would Iron Man 3 keep the slump going (especially after the fun of The Avengers (2012))? Or would Iron Man 3 end the trilogy on a high note?

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and he has so embodied this role by Iron Man 3, it will be hard to see someone else assume the role when his contract ends. In this film, he spends a lot more time being Tony than being Iron Man. Without the suit, viewers get a chance to see more of him as a character, and it’s a nice change of pace. Downey Jr, of course, plays Tony as he always had, with a bit of high-and-mighty mixed with his usual wisecracking charm. He plays privileged in a way that, unlike, say, Trump, makes the viewer think he would be someone fun to hang around with. It’s almost sad that this film marks the end of the trilogy, as we will only be able to see him in ensemble pieces from now on.

Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3 as well, and still proves to be the best “love interest” to these heroes. While Natalie Portman does a solid job as Thor’s gal, the relationship between the two “normals” – Tony and Pepper – is much more personable to the viewer. Gwyneth continues to shine in the role, and really embodies what is essentially a secondary character enough to throw her right into the spotlight in each film she’s in. Since we haven’t seen nearly as much of her as Tony, it’s nice to see her get more of a role in this film.

Don Cheadle returns as well, and even though Terrence Howard had his role in Iron Man (2008), it’s easy to see how much better off the viewer is that Cheadle has replaced him. While Terrence was decent, he just can’t portray the character as well as Don, who hit the ground running in Iron Man 2 (2010) and hasn’t let up yet. He’s always such a good actor, and continues that vein in Iron Man 3.

This time around, the viewers are introduced to two intriguing characters: Killian, played by Guy Pearce, and The Mandarin, played by Ben Kinglsey. Guy Pearce, who has kind of slipped out of the limelight after the long-ago The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), steps up in his role, and his bad guy is certainly worthy of opposing Iron Man. With lots of comic tie-ins in this film (including the first mention of AIM and Extremis), Killian has lots to work with, and Pearce plays him to the hilt.

The Mandarin, on the other hand, is where fans of the comic books might cry foul. While Ben Kingsley plays him well, it’s a far cry from any other version of the Mandarin viewers have ever seen, yet he comes off as one of the best surprises of Iron Man 3. While there are certain clues spread throughout the film, his reveal is shockingly fun, and worth waiting for. It’s true it’s nothing like the comics, but he could easily be brought back in another form later on (if Iron Man survives the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War (2018), that is).

As mentioned earlier, Iron Man 3 spends a lot of time on focusing on Tony outside the suit – much more than either of the two previous films. And it actually makes sense. While the first film split the Tony/Iron Man persona into two even halves, the second film relied a lot more on the Iron Man aspect (which also makes sense). Now, for this third film, it’s gotta be more about Tony the person, and how he can exist separately from the suit. Yet, at the same time, he’s still the hero, and even though he may be battling his demons, he forces himself onward when it counts.

Iron Man 3 does a good job of continuing the story on from The Avengers (2012). After the events of that film, Tony is struggling to maintain his sanity, yet at the same time, he’s facing a new threat and watching his world fall apart from that. It’s a tough road for him to follow, but he’s faring much better than his mopey depressed self from Iron Man 2 (2010). Even though the odds are against him, he doesn’t give up, and forges his way stubbornly onward. It’s a much stronger approach, and really showcases the hero inside the megalomaniac.

With all the focus on Tony, the viewer might be worried that there aren’t going to be the big battle sequences the first film had and the second film expanded on. They needn’t worry. There’s plenty of explosive sequences, but they are much focused on the man than the armor. For example, a big sequence near the finale has Tony jumping in and out of various Iron Man armors. It really showcases that while Tony relied a lot of the armor in the beginning, now it’s a tool he can utilize, not a protective coating separating him from the world around him.

As is a signature of Shane Black directed flicks, Iron Man 3 takes place at Christmastime. While it doesn’t really factor into the story a whole lot (except for a weird bunny sequence and a chilly outdoor sequence), it nice that one of these Marvel films can be viewed around the holidays without it seeming too odd. In fact, maybe the viewer will mix this film in with their Christmas Movie Marathon ever year!

With strong performances by it’s main characters, a decent plot, villains that seem worthy, and a twist that proves the film isn’t trying to take itself too seriously, Iron Man 3 wraps up this Marvel trilogy on a strong note. While Iron Man 2 (2010) was a bit of a disappointment, it is only because it’s sandwiched between two very strong films. It’s not like Iron Man 2 (2010) was bad, it’s just hard to keep a trilogy going strong through all three films, and there’s bound to be a film that slips up a little.

Don’t miss this final film in the trilogy, and stick around, as we catch up on the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe prior to the release of Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

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