Iron Man 3 suits up for the best Marvel outing yet

“Iron Man 3” achieves the rare feat of surpassing the original and being the best of its trilogy in the wake of so many part 3s in movies are typically underwhelming after a great start and stellar continuations to become the best Marvel movie yet.

This is the first Marvel branded movie in “Phase 2” since the incredible THE AVENGERS blockbuster from last year that was a comic/superhero fanatic’s wet dream realized in an actually very, very good film.

Also this movie is the first of the Marvel films since 2008 to make it to a part three, apropos (always wanted to use that word) it was this Iron Man series that birthed the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” that includes Hulk, Thor, and Captain America.

All said on that background, does IRON MAN 3 live up to lofty expectations not only as a popcorn flick and a good film that can have enduring appeal? Yes.  Yes it does.

There are no perfect films.  Every movie has flaws.  Even LeBron James makes mistakes, and so did Michael Jordan at his prime.  Their opponents made more mistakes and the strengths of the winners outshine and compensated for their own weaknesses.  That is what makes good movies and that is one reason this movie works.

The story is a direct sequel to THE AVENGERS and the events of that film, though fun at the time to watch monster men, gods, super soldiers and deep space alien invasions duel in New York, it actually left Tony Stark (a role synonymous with Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback from drugs and other addictions) with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  The Iron Man series always had humor and the PTSD scenes weigh both humor and gravity at the same time.  Though entertaining at the time to witness Iron Man and friends save the world, this movie took time to explore what doing that can do a man after the fact when he realizes he’s just a mortal in a power suit versus beings that defy logic and understanding. Tony doesn’t sleep and when he doesn’t sleep, he creates autonomous Iron Man suits.

The U.S. and the world have fallen prey to the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in a surprising role that is quite effective) and his randomized bombings.  He’s mysterious, he’s cunning and quite cruel, and somehow all of his attacks have left no signs of physical evidence. We also have another threat to Stark’s business investments by Aldrich Killian (a slimy Guy Pearce) who has mastered and commercialized a bio-enhancement formula called “Extremis.” Extremis essentially makes anyone who takes it into a superhuman, a concept explored in the MCU before with “The Incredible Hulk” and in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

To help balance the scales, both Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow as my wife called her one of the most beautiful women in the world — can’t argue since she knows NWA’s music catalogue better than most people) and Rhodes aka Iron Patriot nee War Machine (Don Cheadle does more and is better in this film than in IRON MAN 2 (click link for review) — we like him better in the role than Terrence Howard now) have expanded roles that are more integral and gives them both incredible character defining moments that people will remember.  Their characters seemed more background in the first two movies, and Pepper had cameo duty in AVENGERS with Rhodes absent.  Good to see them back.

The plot of the movie unfolds briskly and with enough moments to shock and awe, and quiets things down to let events unfold and have weight.  The action scenes, for an Iron Man movie, are interesting because much of it focuses more on Tony actually being in danger whether in full armor, partial armor or no armor, which was quite refreshing and a throwback to the first film, and plays on the superhero trope of being a hero without your powers and abilities.  This can be attributed to bringing on a new director, Shane Black — he wrote and directed a number of cool 90s era action movies, which in some spots, this feels like throwback to that era of high stakes action without the over-the-top (well as much as this movie could restrain) belief suspension to an extent.  It feels like a different movie than from the first two entries.

As aforementioned the humor balances with the drama, especially in the chapters when Tony finds himself in rural Tennessee matching wits with a adolescent boy.  It’s actually as amusing and funny, yet poignant at the same time.  This might be my favorite part of the movie, aside from the finale set featuring….

NO SPOILERS ERIK!  Don’t give away the good stuff about the Iron Legion!

I talked about flaws.  I feel like I’m trying to recall where this movie could have been better without spoiling some of its greater parts.  Maybe some extra scenes could have been used to detail the nature of Extremis however we have to take in the visual path for that.  Perhaps the villains could use more time, there are quite a few that I can’t name for spoilers sake because they’re not even in the trailer.  Even the Mandarin storyline may off put some people and the reveal may sour a few mouths, but when the movie was over, I understood how the parts worked together.  Separately it seems randomized, like something out of BATMAN BEGINS, and even then in 2005 it felt like a stretch for me.

IRON MAN 3 was very well done, it felt like a comic book, had great twists, it developed Tony Stark’s character, expanded the understanding we once had about the Iron Man capabilities, introduced concepts in a post-Avengers world and left the door open for what is to come…without having to set up the next superhero, which was a fallback of the other MCU films.  This felt was a pure Iron Man movie and it’s awesome!  I’ll dare say its one of the best superhero films ever made, alongside The Dark Knight trilogy, Spider-Man 2, Superman 2, and X2… At least this one had a surefire good part 3.

On its own, the third parts of the films aforementioned had more than a few flaws but were great in the grand scheme of its series… X-Men may overwrite the events of its third installment, “The Last Stand,” with next year’s “Days of Future Past.”  Superman III was terrible.  Spider-Man 3 was weak and Sony rebooted it so that it could keep movie rights (that’s why he is NOT in Avengers).  The Dark Knight Rises was good — better than many movies — but it is steps behinds its predecessor as a standalone film, however great as a part of the sum total.

All said, go see this movie, in theaters   I saw it in regular screen but I’m sure the 3D is cool too.  The after credits scene left me flat but it was good for a chuckle.

In the MCU I’d rank them as such, first as best: Avengers… Iron Man 3… Iron Man… Capt. America… Incredible Hulk… Thor… Iron Man 2.

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