IRON MAN 3 Review

by     Posted 1 year, 122 days ago


There are almost as many concepts floating around in Iron Man 3 as there are suits of armor.  The only difference is that the armors have a clearly defined purpose.  In an attempt to bring Tony Stark back to basics, his latest outing is a strangely bloated affair that still manages to be an incredibly fun thanks to the hilarious comedy and exhilarating action.  Without question, it’s the funniest and most exciting of the trilogy, but it’s also surrounded by a host of underdeveloped ideas relating to notions of desperation, augmentation, and obfuscation, not to mention the aftershock of The Avengers.  Like riding in one of the Iron Man suits, it’s a bumpy but highly enjoyable ride.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) can’t sleep.  He’s haunted by the overwhelming events in New York that sent him through an intergalactic portal, and so he spends his nights building new suits of armor.  His latest is the Mark XLII, an armor that can be controlled telepathically, and a foreboding symbol of an armor that is as unpredictable as its controller.  It also becomes his only defense when the terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) attacks, and Tony is forced to go on the run and find a way to retaliate.  Desperate, broken, and determined to protect his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), our hero must content with fiery, regenerating soldiers who are powered by a genetic enhancement known as “Extremis”, which has been developed by the malevolent scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

The core of the story is to show Tony Stark’s true superpower as a genius inventor.  His armor has always been an extension of that power.  What makes him a superhero is combining the two, but he’s still a hero without the armor.  It’s a similar point to when Peter Parker loses his powers in Spider-Man 2 except Spider-Man’s powers came from transformation whereas Iron Man is augmentation.  Surrounded by the Extremis soldiers, there’s a notion of how power can corrupt, but like most of the ideas in the movie, it’s never fully developed.

Early in the picture, when the Mandarin is creating mysterious attacks in the Middle East using bombs but with no evidence of bomb casings, Rhodes (Don Cheadle) tells Tony that it’s “An American problem, not a superhero problem,” even though the task of stopping the attacks falls to the Iron Patriot (formerly War Machine but now with a red-white-and-blue paint job).  So is Iron Man now separate from America?  Rhodes said “Iron Patriot” tested better in focus groups, and dog tags are found at the site of an Extremis attack, so is the movie commenting about the optics of war?


The movie doesn’t require some deep commentary, but it still raises these issues, and then can’t do anything with them because they’re either left by the wayside or never fully articulated.  Characters will drop out of the film for long stretches, and other characters have nebulous motives that seem deep—such as finding true character in times of desperation—but never coalesce because surrounding forces, like the Extremis soldiers, never seem to have a clear purpose other than to serve as foes that are almost as faceless as the drones in Iron Man 2.

But whereas that movie seems far more concerned with Tony refining his power source in between being forced inside the developing Avengers plotline, Iron Man 3 always keeps its primary focus on Tony Stark’s journey.  Even though supporting characters provide a shaky orbit around the protagonist, Iron Man 3 is about asking the question of what it means to be “Iron Man” and then letting the humor and emotion spring from there.


This focus allows director and co-writer Shane Black to take his time, and while he does branch out into overall threat of the Mandarin’s plans and the Extremis soldiers, the real danger comes from Tony Stark trying to save the day without the armor that has come to define him.  Obviously, Tony Stark is a “hero”, but Black and Downey have no reservations when it comes to indulging the character’s lovable narcissism.  Black has always been a master of dialogue, and the wise-cracks, comic pauses, and set-ups/pay-offs provide big laughs throughout the picture.

What’s more surprising is how well Black handles the action.  His only other film, the phenomenal Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was a character-driven narrative that only cost $15 million.  That film’s finale hints at how well Black knows how to put together an action scene, but it’s still not enough to prepare his fans for the spectacular job he does with his first blockbuster gig.  Working with an amazing sound team, editors Peter S. Elliot and Jeffrey Ford, and Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll, Black has made Iron Man more impressive than ever (and it would still impress without the 3D).  The character takes a serious beating throughout the picture, and the versatility of the piecemeal Mark XLII provides terrific action and comedy in equal measure.


Furthermore, Black never gets overeager to put action at the forefront or use it as a crutch.  It takes 40 minutes to get to the first big set piece, and when it finally arrives, it’s absolutely worth the wait.  But after the collapsing debris, death-defying escapes, and various pyrotechnics, the film returns to its main focus: Tony Stark in the wilderness.  The strength of Downey’s character-defining performance and Black’s emphasis on getting to the heart of his Tony Stark’s heroism is what keeps the film intact.  Without those central pieces, every jumbled element would fall into a slog of confused plotting and muddled motives.

Iron Man was about Tony Stark taking his new lease on life to right the wrongs of his careless past.  Iron Man 2 isn’t really about Tony Stark but about where Iron Man fits into a larger world and how he can keep a grip on that power.  Iron Man 3 finishes out the trilogy by breaking down the character, and showing that while he may be surrounded by colorful armors, supporting characters, and half-developed ideas, he’s never dwarfed by them.  Iron Man doesn’t get dwarfed by distractions.  He blasts through them.

Rating: B


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  • spongefist

    Here is a more objective review: It was shit.

    • Blakeavon

      please allow me to offer a counter opinion: No it wasn’t.

      • spongefist

        Thank you for your mature and level headed response to my review. I do feel that fire breathing baddies in and of itself is enough to support my initial review… without getting started on the countless other ridiculous and nonsensical elements, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      • Ash

        it sucked

      • Ken

        Iron Man 3 is complete fcking garbage.

    • GrowUp

      How about this? Being objective means sometimes not every comic book movie will follow your comic books word for word. Put on some big boy pants and grow up. If you were being objectionable, you would have looked at this as simply a movie, as that’s what it is. It was very fun and entertaining. And yes, I am a whole-hearted comic book fan.

      • Jesus

        You should know, “objective” and “objectionable” aren’t the same word.

      • chanandeler

        Jesus is right, you know

    • Santiago

      Yes, the big twist sucked. No, it doesn’t bring the whole movie down unless you’re a fanboy.

    • Ash Talon

      It may not have been shit, but it certainly wasn’t good. The script was quite lazy and a bit sloppy. Honestly, I’m a bit tired of RDJ’s performance too. He seems uninspired and just doing his thing instead of reaching for anything. I’m not looking forward to a recasting of Tony Stark.

    • IM3

      Yeah I have to agree. The movie was barely better than Iron man 2 and I think it is insulting for Feige to say that it was “a notch or two above the first” in terms of the script and story. Even the after credits scene was pure garbage.

  • Annie

    One question I have (and it’s spoilerish for anything that hasnt seem the movie) is if he was left with just the suit he was wearing (and the ones underground that apparently he was saving for a rainy day), why didnt he take the ones from his building in NY?

    • Victor

      That’s has an explanation =) go watch it.

    • Victor


    • chanandeler

      any’thing’ ???

  • choice buds

    I think the movie was good but ain’t really got anything on part 1. Still, seeing and hearing Downey Jr as Iron Man is always a treat so I hope he comes back to the role that he owns.

  • LEM

    It wasn’t great and the first is by far still the best one. I still would like to know how the government can get away with just stealing the suit in part 2 and now just keeps it for government use? That wouldn’t be legal.

    • Random Bystander

      It clearly isn’t the same suit. In the tie in comic for Iron Man 3 Tony takes the armor back and strips all the Hammertech shit off to make it the mk II again, then makes Rhodey this new suit which the government then uses for their purposes, by the paint job and rebranding.

      • cameron

        okay I didn’t really want to comment… but thats not true at all. they even say in the movie that it’s the same suit just repainted. they talk about it like 2-3 times! did you even watch it? It’s the mark 2! it still has the machine gun on the back and everything!

      • LEM

        The third movie should have been a courtroom drama of Tony trying to get his suit back from the US government and of course Tony would act as his own legal counsel.

    • CZAR

      Actually on the movie TONY STARK states the info how to build one of his “suits” its available and public…

  • Strong Enough

    78 on RT. god damn. that is terrible. TDKR has a 87!

    • Alex H

      Lots of mixed opinions, and for good reason. There’s something about the movie — when you see it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about — that is just straight up fucking stupid.

      • Agent777

        Never good when you have turn to your friend and say “Is this really Iron Man 3?”

    • sense 11

      78 is a solid rating, especially for a comic book movie

    • Kim

      They are too generous with the 78. This movie deserves to be in the 50s, really.

  • Amar

    SHIELDS are the agency who are smart but why didn’t they help Tony to fight the terrorist, are they not aware of fact that President is in danger.

  • Lance

    I liked it better than Iron Man 2, but the movie is far from perfect.

    One thing about the Marvel movies — with the exception of Avengers, I always feel like everyone’s holding back from the huge action it feels like these films could really use (which isn’t to say there aren’t any cool action scenes in the movie at all). Kind of like pre-J.J. Abrams era Star Trek films. Guess maybe Disney and Marvel still keep a close eye on the budget?

    If only we could get the budget of a Michael Bay film for future Marvel movies… but keep Bay himself far, far away!

    • LEM

      Or just have him come in and do some cool ass action sequences but not touch the story.

      • Misael

        @ Lance/LEM
        Finally someone understand it!! I have always thought the same. Perhaps some people will say comic books are way to colorful to be adapted completely in to a motion picture, but hey!! THE AVENGERS prove a movie can look like a comic book and still be awesome and not chezzy at all!!! Who want’s comic book movies grounded in reality??? (No ofense Nolan fans) we want some good old heroe vs villain action. However I have no complaint on IM3 great film. Mandarin subject was a just a little let down.

    • cartouche

      You know you make a great point. Marvel seems to be focusing on character driven storylines rather than just unabashed fun. While I like these storylines and feel the quality is top notch the fun of the movies get drained a little.
      This is why the AVENGERS was so popular it brought the fun element back into the fold. I wish Marvel would just let go of the seriousness for a minute and have some good ol action fun.
      Hate to sound redundant but these movies are so popular because they remind us of a time in our life when we basically feel like kids again. Making a story “darker” will leave the viewers exhausted. Why try to humanize a god, a billionaire, a Hulk, and a lab experiment? Take them for what they are which is a projection of what we wish we could be. Have fun with it.

  • CZAR

    its a shame that Shane Black make from Sir Ben a clown for the last half of the movie and actually was not making him the master mind // wonder what will be done about this if MARVEL ever comes out with DR STRANGE having magical and astral powers and the MANDARIN does not…. SHAME for IRON MAN3 and SHAME for MARVEL………

    • ad

      I have to agree somewhat. I found the whole take on the Mandarin to be unique and a little fresh and it was funny but after a while i realised that having them do this at the expense of having a ‘proper’ Mandarin with the rings I was a little angry and sad at the missed opportunity. I think the review should really be something like a C+ since it’s good but not the special movie I was after.

      • Agent777

        If you consider that Citizen Kane and Seven Samurai are a A+, and Star Wars a B+… really, this would be a D. It’s like Shane Black wrote a essay on a book he never read.

    • Jesus

      In internetland we call comments like this “Spoilers”, jagoff.

  • James

    certainly the best of the trilogy IMO thats not to say their wasn’t a lot wrong with it. i get what they were doing with the Mandarin, but am disappointed with it non the less they completely wasted Ben Kingsley who could of been one of the best villians yet. Guy Peirce is a great actor but the role was tired and over used. other than that i loved it good laughs, and good action. at least unlike Iron Man 2 they tried to explore some deeper facet of the character and the world he inhabits. I hope RDJ can last until Avengers 3 where i hope they do the Civil War arc, that would be sweet.

    • Hunter

      I completely agree. I enjoyed the movie, but once it revealed what they were doing with Kingsley’s character I was disappointed the rest of the movie

  • Misael

    @ Lance/LEM
    Finally someone understand it!! I have always thought the same. Perhaps some people will say comic books are way to colorful to be adapted completely in to a motion picture, but hey!! THE AVENGERS prove a movie can look like a comic book and still be awesome and not chezzy at all!!! Who want\’s comic book movies grounded in reality??? (No ofense Nolan fans) we want some good old heroe vs villain action. However I have no complaint on IM3 great film. Mandarin subject was a just a little let down.

  • ad

    They should re-shoot some scenes and re-edit and re-release the thing with a proper take on the Mandarin.

  • furion77

    I really do not understand why do they feel the need to explain and explore what makes the Iron Man when there have been 3 other movies that had the chance of doing it and the first one was pretty dang good about it. Why sell you with the trailer that The Mandarin is the real deal when is not (a really bad joke) and lastly, Why do we have a Christmas movie in May with Dora the explorer and little kids. You can really tell Disney is really making a mess here. Nice try but this movie was not that good like people are proclaiming it to be.

    • IM3

      The worst part is, during the first hour or so the movie was actually fantastic (and it all abruptly ended when he crashed in Tennessee and broke into the shed– that is the moment when this movie absolutely collapses). SPOILERS to follow

      Making the Mandarin be a joke when he was more than adequate being an “evil terrorist with no real goal” was a major slap to the face for fans. In my personal opinion it was a very poor gamble and it absolutely ruined one of Iron Man’s most iconic villains.

      Another Problem I had was that there seemed to be a forced joke every step of the way. Iron man one balanced jokes, plot, and action perfectly, but this one tried to force a joke into every single scene and it got really bland and boring.

      Another thing, Tony is in the suit for what? a total of 5 minutes? The climactic fight scene was really boring, as were the main antagonists (people who can burn you big whoop) and the airplane rescue scene was so forced and jammed in just to have it there, it served no real plot. Also James Rhodes does absolutely nothing in the movie either.

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  • sccitylhh




    They should have killed off Pepper, Marvel has no balls. When it looked as if she died I actually felt something for the only time in the film. The screenwriters cheated outrageously and shamelessly bringing her back. It was the only moment in the film that had the chance to be emotionally poignant.

    Also, where did Rhodes go after he rescued the President? Did he just split and
    leave Stark to get his ass kicked to the point of death? Seems out of character and kind of a dick movie on ole Rhodey’s part.

  • Agent777

    I’ve read the old comics, and I watched it with someone who doesn’t read comics and loved 1 and 2, and someone who was into the old cartoon and saw 2, and the one thing we all had in common was the opinion that this film was terrible and more like fever dream than a actual Iron Man movie.

    It was suspiciously similar to Batman Begins, and failed everywhere Dark Knight Rises succeeded.

    All they had to do was follow up on the first one and deliver a 50% decent Mandarin.

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