Oh yeah, SPOILERS AHEAD.
IRON MAN 3
Directed by Shane Black
A Marvel Studios Film
To be completely honest, as a kid I thought Iron Man was pretty lame; I thought Tony Stark's suit looked dumb and not very mechanical at all, plus many comic characters had similar suits so he didn't stand out that much. During my mid-twenties, Marvel gave us the Civil War storyline, which pitted Iron Man against my longtime favorite Marvel hero, Captain America; this made me hate Iron Man and made me think he was jerk (which he is, but not in as bad a way as I had thought). During the lead up to Civil War, I heard the first rumblings about the Iron Man movie.
Even after seeing the trailer for the first Iron Man movie, I wasn't really impressed. I thought it looked cheesy and kind of silly, then the film came out to great reviews and I decided to see it. Suddenly, Iron Man and Tony Stark were very cool- and not only was the film awesome, but it served as the prelude to what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the latest entry of which is the topic of this article.
The thing that made me want to watch this film the most was the see the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)'s take on Iron Man primary antagonist, The Mandarin. For the role director Shane Black got legendary actor, Sir Ben Kingsley, and whose initial scenes feature the Mandarin in Al-Queda style propaganda films threatening the MCU's United States with increasing terrorism. I found the scenes quite eerie, especially with the Mandarin's off-kilter southern drawl narration.
To be sure, this version of the Mandarin has been particularly divisive among the film's fandom, especially with the late film revelation that Ben Kingsley's Mandarin is really an actor named Trevor Slattery and a patsy used by true villain, Aldrich Killian. Gone are the comic version of the Mandarin's ten alien power rings and Chinese ancestry, but that hasn't bothered me a bit. I know many people were hoping that Iron Man's arch foe would pose a menacing threat and attended the film expecting Repulsor Blasts vs. Ten Power Rings, but I really rather like this version of the character and think Kingsley and Black have handled him in a really interesting and unexpected way.
Not to be out done, Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark with plenty of self-assured smarm and sarcasm and finishes the character's arc of self-discovery that he began in the first film and gets some surprising assistance from a young boy named Harley (played very convincingly by Ty Simpkins) who also happens to love to tinker with machines . There has been much discussion over Downey's continuation of the role in terms of stand alone features (he's expressed interest in being a main stay for future Avengers films), but if we are going to have a hiatus on the sequential Iron Man films, this is a good place to break.
Pepper Potts, as played by Gwyneth Paltrow, also finishes her story arc that began with the first Iron Man film, going from Tony Stark's assistant/ emotional support to love interest and partner to equal, complete with her own super powers. I really liked how her character has progressed through out the films, but I do think she could have done with a bit more focus in the second act of the film.
We do get a little bit of Don Cheadle's James Rhodes (War Machine) again in this film, but not nearly as much as I was hoping. It was awesome to see Rhodes put his military training to use against some of Killian's Extremis super soldiers, but his actual action time in suit as Iron Patriot (the rebranded code name for Rhodes' War Machine armor) is scant at best and really would have benefited from more time- especially since there's no sign of a solo adventure for the foreseeable future. It was also nice to see John Favreau back as Happy Hogan, and the small focus on his personal friendship with Stark.
All in all, I enjoyed the film tremendously but I do recognize that I have a huge bias toward the MCU film series. I found this installment's big bad, Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian to be the most menacing of the Iron Man trilogy's villains, though in the end I found him to be somewhat over powered as he tears through several of Stark's Iron Man suits. I was initially hoping that his role as big bad would eventually be usurped by Kingsley's Mandarin, who decided that he DID like being a megalomanical villain and go full on evil. I thought that would've been a pleasing twist, since the way it was done did come off a bit like 'Batman Begins'' Ra's Al Ghul. Seeing the mobilization of Tony Stark's full armory was also a very rewarding scene, though I wish we had a little more time to see all 34 Iron Man specialty suits.
Marvel Studios is of to a great start with MCU Phase II, and I'm pleased to say I'm very much looking forward to this winter's 'Thor: The Dark World' and the MCU's TV spin-off 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."