We are now at Phase Two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Picking up after The Avengers, it follows Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who, after his house is destroyed and he is presumed dead, must hunt down the terrorist responsible — without his Iron Man suits. In addition, he must uncover the secret of a genetically modified disease called Extremis. It’s a great premise that gives light to one of Marvel’s more underrated movies.
Considering it was the first film after The Avengers, it’s not hard to see why it’s pretty divisive among fans. In terms of story, this is something much different than had been shown in the franchise prior. For the most part, the first few MCU films were solo origin stories, concerned with setting up a wider universe. This is one of the least impactful films in the franchise, serving as a solo outing. The heroes are the same and the villains are pretty smaller-scale. No world-building takes place. There are some points from previous outings that are brought up again, but they’re not related to the plot. That is, save for the fact that the terrorist group here is the one that kidnapped Stark in the first film.
As said, the villains are smaller-scale. While that’s sometimes a good thing, none of the antagonists present in this film are really bland and uninteresting. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) is especially campy and feels like a retread of other, better villains. He seems to keep a lot of lackeys around for no purpose at all, really. However, the twist involving Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin is hilarious in all the right ways. Watching Tony expecting an armed terrorist in the estate and finding a sleazy British dude instead is highly enjoyable. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) is interesting at first, but when she’s killed off halfway through the movie, it’s obvious how little her character impacted the story.
Ultimately, the writing and tone are much better than that of Iron Man 2. The dialogue isn’t as horrible, and the story seems more focused. It doesn’t try to cram too much into a movie that doesn’t need it. It’s grounded, and it goes to places that other superhero films hadn’t before. Instead of following a cookie-cutter plot, it went with something new. First of all, it tricked the viewer into thinking who the real villain was. Second, it focuses its main conflict on a genetic disease. Honestly, this film’s action sequences aren’t all that entertaining because the rest of the film is so investing. However, that “Iron Patriot” act? Ugh…War Machine was ten times better, guys.
As mentioned earlier, the action sequences really aren’t that stellar. None of them have enough “bite” to them and they’re either too long or too short. That being said, they’re still visually stunning and provide an entertaining watch for casual moviegoers. For fans of the franchise, however, they’re nothing but a disappointment. The main plot is much more intriguing, which just makes the action scenes even more of a chore to get through.
Iron Man 3 proves to be much better than Tony Stark’s second solo outing. It provides a more grounded approach to a superhero film, something rare nowadays. The villains are bland and the action sequences are a slog. However, the writing and tone are more satisfying than in previous films. The humor is more effective and the camp factor is dialed down quite a bit, which is a welcome change. It’s possible that the main reason for its status in fans’ heads is because of how massive the film before it was. Regardless, it’s much more entertaining than its given credit for and is one of the most underrated MCU films.
Iron Man 3 stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Shane Black.