Spoilers Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie yet please be warned.
Phase 1 of Avengers culminated last summer with the Avengers. Iron Man is the beginning of Phase 2, the group of standalone movies, that will get us to the second Avengers movie. At the end of the first Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark declares to the world “I am Iron Man”. In another great performance as the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark, he reminds us once again that he is Iron Man and born to play the role.
As we recall from the first movie, Yinsen, Stark’s sidekick while imprisoned in a cave in Afghanistan, had actually met Stark in a conference in Switzerland but it would not be an encounter Stark would have remembered. At the start of Iron Man 3, Stark has a flashback to that conference on New Year’s Eve 2009 and a couple of people that will play significant parts in the movie. The first is Maya Hansen, who is a brilliant scientist who is working on Extremis. It is a serum that she hopes will be able to regenerate limbs. However, it is unstable and can cause the specimen to explode. The other person is Aldrich Killian, who is a very nerdy, awkward scientist trying to recruit Stark and Maya for his company Advanced Idea Mechanics (“A.I.M” for short). As comic book fans know, A.I.M. is a group of brilliant scientists bent on world domination and similar to HYDRA, who were featured in Captain America. Stark promises to meet Killian on the roof of the building to talk about working together but obviously stands Killian up and never shows.
The film also takes on Tony’s difficulties with dealing with the experiences he had during the fight with Loki and the Chituiri in the Avenger’s climatic, final battle. As a reminder, Loki had opened a wormhole into space for the Chituiri to begin their invasion of Earth by attacking midtown Manhattan. Believing that the Avengers could not repel the invasion, the council for SHIELD decided to try to stop the invasion with a nuclear strike of Manhattan to close the portal. Fortunately, Iron Man was able to redirect the missile by navigating it into the wormhole and at the Chituiri mother ship to end the attack. However, he loses consciousness in space before drifting back through the wormhole. Due to that near death experience, he has post traumatic stress and has flashbacks of that moment. Moreover, the knowledge of Gods, different realms, and aliens has made Tony Stark very paranoid that an attack can happen at any time and may not even come from Earth. For those two reasons, he is not able to sleep after his experiences in New York. What does a Tony Stark do all night when he cannot sleep and is paranoid? Build suits of Iron Man armor of course. At the beginning of the movie, Stark is working on his Mark 42 armor. Considering he was on Mark VII at the end of Avengers, he has made a lot of extra armors which comes into play in spectacular fashion at the film’s climatic battle. However, his obsession with making the suits is starting to strain his relationship with Pepper Potts (played brilliantly again by Gwyneth Paltrow).
Naturally, Killian enters back into the picture with a makeover and charisma in stark contrast of his nerdy, younger version back in 1999. Moreover, he tried repeatedly to court Pepper in his younger years. At the beginning of the movie, he sets up a meeting with Pepper, who is now the head of Stark Industries, for the two companies to join forces on A.I.M.’s advances in manipulating DNA. Pepper declines the offer as Stark Industries questions the morality of the uses of such technology (e.g. misusing the power to create super soldiers). In the meantime, a new threat has arisen: the Mandarin, who is a terrorist with a grudge against the United States and looking to teach the country lessons.
Tony Stark and Iron Man initially stay out of helping to stop the Mandarin. After the attack on New York, the Pentagon wants to show its strength and does not want the public to think that it needs to rely on the Avengers to deal with threats. Moreover, the Pentagon has the help of Colonel James Rhodes (played by Don Cheadle) donning the War Machine armor, renamed to be the “Iron Patriot” to be more politically correct. However, when Stark’s longtime friend and former bodyguard Happy Hogan is gravely hurt by one of Mandarin’s terrorist attacks, Iron Man takes it personally and publicly calls out the Mandarin and gives the Mandarin his home address. Of course, the Mandarin responds by sending attack helicopters to blow up Stark’s Malibu mansion in of the movie’s most sensational action sequences. Of course, Stark’s Iron Man Mark 42 armor narrowly saves Stark from death and he spends the rest of the movie investigating how A.I.M, Extremis, and the Mandarin are all connected.
As comic book fans know, the Mandarin is THE Iron Man villain. To make a Batman reference, the Mandarin is suppose to be Iron Man’s Joker. At the beginning of the movie, it builds up the Mandarin as the villain. After the attack and destruction of Stark’s mansion, it was looking very promising that Director Shane Black got the iconic villain right. However, they put in an odd twist in the middle of the movie and the Mandarin is not what he appears. With that twist, the Mandarin went from being a great interpretation to a horrible one. While the Iron Man movie trilogy has been great at telling Tony Stark’s story and dealing with his real life problems, the villains have been a little lame. Unfortunately, that fact held true for Iron Man 3. I was hoping for a charismatic, badass version of the Mandarin. Instead, we end up with a version that is more of a spoof. They completed wasted the Mandarin as he is suppose to be the epitome of Iron Man.
Overall, Iron Man 3 is still very fun and a great movie to bring your entire family. There is a lot of amazing action sequences that includes a new suit with new cool functions, a thrilling mid air rescue of a bunch of people who get jettisoned into the sky, and an army of Iron Men suits. As always, Robert Downey Jr. is in top form with a lot of smart ass comments and great dialogue throughout the movie. Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are also great supporting characters. Another aspect that I loved about the movie is that Tony Stark does not rely solely on his armor the entire movie. In fact, he goes through a significant part of the movie without being able to use any Iron Man armor and has to rely on his wit and ingenuity to take on the Mandarin and his minions as well as figure out the schemes of the villains. Whether he has the suit on or not, he is Iron Man.
I think this movie will be great for moviegoers that do not have too much familiarity with the iron Man story and his villains. I went with two coworkers to this movie and they loved it. One of them saw it 11 PM the night before and again with us in IMAX. For Iron Man fans that know the story and have expectations for the Mandarin, it will probably be disappointing.
The first Iron Man film is still the best one of the three in my book. Iron Man 3 can be ranked ahead of the second film if you are fine with the interpretation of the Mandarin. From my perspective, Iron Man 3 is a fun followup to the Avengers but falls well short from being as good as the Avengers.