After the huge explosion of awesome that was the Avengers team-up, this one gets back inside Tony’s head for a more intelligent and character-focused outing that feels like a huge improvement over Iron Man 2. But let’s see what the numbers say.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Overview: Tony has to find a way to survive without his Iron Man suit when he is attacked by a terrorist known as The Mandarin, who has ties to Tony’s pre-superhero days.
I like the script. The plot, overall, is pretty simple, but its focus on Tony as a person and not a superhero goes a long way to adding a new dimension to the character. The script has some great moments, though it’s not quite as quotable as the first film. But it’s got its share of twists and turns (the Mandarin’s identity reveal is one of the best moments in the whole film).
The dialogue isn’t quite as improvised, but I feel like the interactions between Tony and Pepper have matured a lot. Before, they would both speak over one another, and in this one, we really see them connecting and listening, which makes their relationship make more sense. Even outside the circle of her relationship with Tony, I like how the script treats Pepper as something other than just the straight man in their comedic duo. She feels more like a person, here.
The end credits win at least 5 out of the 7 points. I love the 60’s action/adventure feel to the music and the visuals as we’re taken from Iron Man up to this one. It’s so much fun.
The film overall, hits some really great highs, notably Tony’s low-tech break in to the Mandarin’s facility, which has a wonderful James-Bond-Meets-MacGuyver feel to it, and the final battle with all 42 Iron Man outfits, which is a crazy wonderful idea.
But I think it overreaches itself in places. The CGI can’t quiiite keep up with the hugeness of the director’s aspirations, and so it ends up looking a bit goofy at times.
The Villain: 8/10
The main villain, Aldrich Killian, is interesting…before we know he’s the villain. Once he becomes a mwa-ha-ha superdude roided up on fiery genetic enhancements, he basically just becomes a final boss to be defeated. His motivations, that Tony pranked him thirteen years prior, seems really lame.
But the Mandarin is fantastic, even though he’s totally just a jittery British actor who’s playing a part to further Killian’s plans. In the original comics, the Mandarin was a horribly racist caricature of Asian crime lord stereotypes. The films had to bring him up eventually since he’s one of Iron Man’s biggest nemeses, but they had to do it in a way that wouldn’t be culturally insensitive. And I think their solution is outstanding.
When we first see him, he’s an American-sounding guy of indeterminate cultural background who seems to have a vendetta against the president and the country he represents. He’s brutally violent and enigmatic enough to be terrifying.
But when Tony finds him to be a drug-addled fun-loving actor who has no clue what is actually going on, it’s such a wonderful “wait, what?” moment.
If there’s one thing this film does perfectly, it’s explosions. And, what’s even better, they’re integral to the story! The mysterious bombings, the explosive attack on Tony’s house, the sacrificial detonation of all the Iron Man suits, it all fits. It’s one of the few explode-y movies where teh explosions serve a purpose other than just “to look really cool.”
Favorite explosion: I hate to say it, but the attack on Tony’s house. It’s a great set piece that shows just how vulnerable Tony is, and it feels fresh and different.
The Hero’s Journey: 9/10
In the first film, we saw Tony decide to take an active role in protecting the people who were previously at risk from the weapons he created. In the second, we saw Tony’s self-destructive side. In this one, we get to see a damaged Tony. I love how it references The Avengers not as a really cool battle in which he saved everyone, but as a traumatic event that has left him with crippling anxiety. When removed from his arrogant bluster, Tony becomes a much more relateable character. Also, his mental health struggles helps to explain why none of the other Avengers help him out. He has clearly distanced himself from them since they would be a constant trigger for his panic attacks.
The character grows so much, both in how he finds out how much of an anchor Pepper can be for him (whereas at the beginning, he’s trying to face everything on his own), and in how he was using the Iron Man suits as an ineffective shelter from his own fear.
The moment at the end when he finally allows the doctors to remove the shrapnel and the arc reactor from his chest is such a huge triumphant breakthrough for him since he finally accepts that he’s not invulnerable.
I took off one point because later films seem to completely forget that this is a thing that happened… I get that fans don’t really want to see Tony retire, but it would be nice if there was SOME reference to Tony rebuilding his suit for the Avengers, and the emotions associated with it.
Also, I like how we get to see Rhodey actually BE a superhero. In Iron Man 2, he was still very much a sidekick, but in this one, he actually gets to show off just how cool he is in combat situations. He’s a crack shot, a great tactician, and he’s the one who saves the president at the end. It’s about time he gets to break out of sidekick territory and get to shine on his own.
Score and Rank
1. The Avengers (45/50)
2. Iron Man (43/50)
3. Iron Man 3 (42/50) (Nice! I’m sad that Thor keeps getting pushed down, but it’s all good, I guess…)
4. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)
5. Thor (39/50)
6. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)
7. Iron Man 2 (33/50)