I thought “Iron Man 3” was the weakest of the three films, having never understood the grousing about part 2. Sure, the second film was overcrowded and suffered from the imperative to set up the other Marvel movies, but it moved at a good clip, mixing the fabled Tony Stark wit with action and some intriguing questions about the dangers of one man wielding the destructive power of an entire nation-state.
“Iron Man 3” is still a cut above most summer blockbusters, filled with plenty of snappy dialogue (a specialty of director/screenwriter Shane Black) and a couple of spectacular set pieces, especially Iron Man’s midair rescue of people who have been blown out of Air Force One. There’s also a visually clever and thrilling sequence where Tony has to make do with part of an Iron Man suit, leading to an action scene unlike any other.
It offers a solid thematic bookend to the first movie, which ended with Stark tossing aside superhero convention and declaring to the world, “I am Iron Man.” The new movie could be seen as Stark’s journey to discover what that statement really means, so he can repeat it with greater confidence and new layers of meaning.
The best scenes come between Tony Stark and a kid he meets while he’s down and out in Tennessee. The chemistry between these two characters is amazing. I hope the kid gets at least a cameo appearance in “Avengers 2.”
But structurally, “Iron Man 3” kind of drags in the middle. It’s a story about manipulating and subverting expectations, and the plot itself is tailored to this theme, because it’s a superhero movie that barely has the titular superhero in it. Even when the Iron Man armor is onscreen, Tony’s not always in it. The big action scenes don’t come until the end; it’s odd the director didn’t think to throw something big in the second act involving Stark’s friend Rhodey (rechristened “Iron Patriot,” a focus-grouped decision Stark mocks amusingly.) But even though Rhodey’s in the film a lot more, he’s still mostly used for comic relief.
What we get is a very talky superhero movie whose dialogue isn’t quite as witty as what Joss Whedon served up in “Avengers.” It doesn’t do a very good job of resolving the personal issues presented for the hero and villain, particularly the much-discussed post-traumatic stress episodes Tony is experiencing after the events of “Avengers.” The villains seem a bit less… comprehensible than Stark’s first two enemies, although they’re also very creepy once their true menace is revealed.
It’s worth seeing, but it’s not quite as good as it could have been, especially considering that “Avengers” is a tough act to follow. By all means, be sure to sit through the credits for the “stinger” at the end, which is absolutely hilarious.