Who is Tony Stark? Who is Iron Man? Those questions are given a lot of attention in the third film in the Iron Man trilogy. Taking place after the world changing events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 is really a sequel to that film, and yet, it seems to exist in a universe entirely separate from it. None of the characters from The Avengers appear in Iron Man 3. There is no S.H.E.I.L.D., no of Thunder, no sign that The Avengers ever happened, except, Tony Stark’s struggle to overcome some perfectly understandable anxiety after having pushed himself to his limits to save the world and almost failed. If I had one problem with the film, it’s that it could have been clearer that this was the reason The Avengers were kept at arms length by Stark.
Absent aliens and gods, the big villain this time orchestrates a very loud echo of 911, down to a fair imitation of Osama Bin Laden. There’s also a fairly timely message about chickens coming home to roost. With the recent events in Boston, you can’t help but see many parallels. But it’s important to remember that this is escapist fun. It’s not the movie’s responsibility to wrap everything up in a tidy rah-rah bow.
There are some marvelous twists in the film and I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot, but I really loved the villain of the movie and his motivations, which are more believable than the standard comic book villain. Fans of the comic book may be a little disappointed because it rewrites what was a prominent place for The Mandarin character in the Marvel Universe. But that’s a standard trope of super hero movies anyway. Film is an entirely different medium and deserves differing story treatments than comic books, which are more serial in nature.
To date, Iron Man movies have been primarily about Robert Downey Jr and his amazing ability to inhabit the role. Witty humor, a certain disregard for his own personal safety, and the playboy lifestyle fits like a glove on Downey Jr. But the third film expands the focus to the rest of the cast to the point where they are literally wearing the suit. This is both a strength and weakness of the film. I always like to see Downey Jr performing at his peak, as I believe he was in this film, but he’s taken the character a long way and it’s good to see other story arcs developed.
End the end, the suit doesn’t make the man, the man makes the suit. That’s a lesson we can all stand to hear again. Iron Man 3 is a great, I’m going to see it again tonight in IMAX.
Finally, do stick around for the post-credits tag. Just a heads up.