Review: Iron Man 3

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Iron Man 3 premiered in the US tonight, officially kicking off Phase Two of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. And what a premiere it was. Stunning action, razor sharp wit and some well-timed character development made for a well-crafted and surprising third installment.

Warning: This review contains major spoilers for Iron Man 3. Proceed at your own risk!

RATING 4.5When we last left our hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), he’d just fallen out of a wormhole from space and barely made it out alive. Naturally, such a mind-blowing experience has taken it’s toll on Tony. He’s a self-proclaimed “hot mess” at the beginning of Iron Man 3, prone to insomnia and bouts of anxiety. His relationship with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) is slightly strained and he ultimately seems listless, his only distraction being his suits.

But Tony isn’t allowed to mope for long, as trouble begins when a maniacal terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley…sort of) takes over the airwaves and releases a series of videos with corresponding explosions to threaten the President and the American people. Tony quickly becomes riled, especially when he finds out that from old flame Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) that Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), the creator of the revolutionary healing compound Extremis, may be behind it all.

What follows is both a fast-paced and emotionally satisfying film. The actions sequences are eye catching and over-the-top. The special effects were top notch, with the highlight being the incredible “House Party Protocol” scene, in which Tony summons his entire secret arsenal of suits to do battle. The humor was witty and clever (Downton Abbey, anyone?), with Tony’s razor sharp tongue getting the most laughs  Yet, despite its abundance of laughs and thrills, it’s the more emotional moments that really carry Iron Man 3. Throughout a large part of the movie, Tony finds himself lost or disadvantaged. He’s forced to rough it outside of his suit, and without it to hide inside, he has no choice but to face his own insecurities. We see a Tony who’s tired and confused after literally witnessing the unimaginable. Yet over the course of the movie, and with the help of an adorably wily child (Ty Simpkins)  he partners up with, Tony regains his confidence and sense of purpose in time to save the day.

While Tony is having his crisis, America is having trouble as the menacing Mandarin uses Killian’s Extremis product, a chemical that gives the user unlimited powers and healing ability, to cause mayhem. His ultimate goal is to capture and execute the President, but when Tony and Rhodey finally find the terrorist, it turns out that he’s actually just a drug addled cockney stage actor. The Mandarin is a symbolic figurehead, with the true antagonist being Killian this entire time. The plot twist was completely out of nowhere but incredibly satisfying, and it added a layer of intrigue to the overall story. True terrorism, after all, is all about symbols. Ben Kingsley’s acting was admirable as he managed to be both incredibly intimidating and utterly comical at different points in the film.

Pierce’s Killian was an interesting enough villain, though his “You slighted me when I was normal, therefore you’re the reason I turned evil” backstory was somewhat clichéd. His assistant, Maya Hansen was woefully underused and unceremoniously disposed of, though she got a good Bechdel Test-passing conversation with Pepper in before got fridged. It was unfortunate that her role in the movie was rather pointless, but Rebecca Hall made the best of what she had and at least there was no silly love triangle between Maya, Pepper and Tony.

Speaking of Pepper, she kicked serious ass in this film. It was disappointing when her stint in the Iron Man suit turned out to be incredibly short and possibly accidental (it was unclear if the self-attaching suit was aiming for Tony and missed or if he had it synced to her on purpose), but she more than made up for it when she took care of creepy Killian . Poor Pepper had been through a lot, being injected with Extremis and nearly dying, but she took her revenge swiftly and violently. It’s just a shame that she didn’t keep her crazy awesome powers.

In the end, all returns to normal for Tony and his friends. Rhodey, who kicked some serious ass of his own both in and out of his Iron Patriot suit, got the honor of rescuing the President, while Tony decided to start his life anew by blowing up all his current suits and having the shrapnel finally removed from his chest. And as Tony declares himself to be Iron Man in his closing monologue, we get the feeling that he’s finally decided to stop hiding behind his persona and instead accept it as part of himself.

Of course, this entire story takes on a new meaning when it’s revealed after the credits that Tony’s consistent monologue has not been directed at the audience as suspected, but at Dr. Bruce Banner, his best science bro forever. Banner is so incredibly unqualified for therapy that he falls asleep toward the beginning of the film, chronologically. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic movie, and though Iron Man 3 didn’t do a lot to set up future films, it may possibly be the best of the Iron Man franchise so far.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pierce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins, Paul Bettany, William Sadler

Directed by: Shane Black

Written by: Drew Pierce, Shane Black

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Rated PG-13 (action)

130 minutes

Released on May 3rd, 2013

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