Following the events in New York (as seen in The Avengers) Tony Stark is having trouble sleeping. However, when a new foe enters the fray in the form of global terrorist The Mandarin, he must put his anxieties to one side to protect those closest to him.
Some people loved The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble here in the UK) whilst others hated it. No matter how you felt about it, it can’t be denied that it was Marvel’s biggest movie to date, and so it was always going to be a pretty daunting task to follow it up. Fortunately, the task fell to Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr, probably the most enigmatic and popular of the Avengers crew.
Iron Man 3 also sees Shane Black brought in as writer/director in place of Jon Favreau (who still keeps his role has Tony Stark’s muscle Happy Hogan) and he’s done a decent job of building upon the previous two films. Iron Man 3 rattles along at a fair old pace as you’d expect from a Marvel superhero flick, although it does take more time to focus on the man inside the tin can. Here we see more of Stark the man and the film is richer for it; part of what makes the franchise so appealing is Stark’s witty dialogue and there’s plenty of that on show here.
Now, the Mandarin. I’m no comic book fanboy but I understand that the Mandarin is kind of a big deal. A lot of people were very excited to have him in the film, and, without giving anything away, the direction in which the character has been taken is likely to prove hugely contentious. It’s a bold move and there’ll be some who like it, but there’ll be plenty who are downright outraged. In terms of the narrative, the character works reasonably well although your enjoyment of the film could well depend on your expectations of how the Mandarin will be handled.
Iron Man 3’s other villain is Aldrich Killian played by Guy Pearce. Killian has developed a drug/treatment thing called Extremis (also apparently a big deal in the comics) that can regenerate limbs and also cause the recipient to raise their body temperature to dangerous levels. Killian starts the film as a relatively minor character but gets more and more important as the film goes on. Unfortunately, the character isn’t nearly as interesting as the Mandarin, which when you see where the plot goes, makes the film all the weaker. It’s also not 100% clear as to Killian’s motives, which can make it a little confusing as to the actual point of the whole film.
There are various other smaller story arcs going on throughout the film, some of which are significantly more successful than others. Stark’s beau Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets a much more developed role and the introduction of a kid sidekick for Stark is nowhere near as annoying as it could have been. There is also a rather malnourished side plot revolving around the Vice President and his daughter which could have been pretty interesting had it been fleshed out a little more.
Iron Man 3 may be a little shallow but it’s also a lot of fun. Tonally it sits somewhere between the lighthearted feel of The Avengers and the grittier world of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but it’s difficult to say it can be held in as high regard as either. However, should this the last in the Iron Man franchise, which it could well be, it’s still a decent note to go out on.