Iron Man 3 continues the story of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) who, after the Battle of New York in Avengers, is struggling with his place in the steadily expanding superhero community. Unable to sleep, Stark has prioritized tinkering with new suits over his personal relationships – even neglecting the one person he “cannot live without,” Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
However, when mysterious terrorist The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) kills American citizens and targets Iron Man (as well as his friends), Stark is stripped of his trademark armor, and forced to investigate the threat as an ordinary man. He embarks on a dangerous mission to bring the Mandarin to justice – as well as prove that Tony Stark is more than just his Iron Man suit.
Following on the heels of The Avengers, Marvel Studios had a tough task ahead of them: deliver a batch of standalone character stories set in the Avengers shared universe, without undercutting the excitement and momentum generated by the epic 2012 superhero team-up. The first post-Avengers solo entry, Iron Man 3 is led by first-time Marvel helmer Shane Black – known for blending slick action (and humor) with memorable character stories as both a writer (Lethal Weapon) and director (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Does Black’s “buddy cop” movie pedigree make him the right man to usher in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, via a smart Tony Stark story with some exciting Iron Man combat?
Interestingly, while Black succeeds in presenting the most personal and intimate Tony Stark story in the series thus far, it sometimes comes at the expense of iconic Iron Man action that die-hard fans will be expecting. This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of exciting moments featuring the Iron Man armor(s), but Robert Downey Jr. spends a significant amount of time outside of the suit this round (even during several key battles).
That said, the Extremis super-soldier villains are a welcome change of pace from the suit-on-suit brawls of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and the Mark 42 Armor (which Stark can remotely control) adds plenty of slick new set-pieces that are sure to be memorable for comic lovers and newcomers alike.Still, even though Iron Man 3 includes some of the best moments in the franchise, certain moviegoers will be underwhelmed by the final ratio between Tony Stark and Iron Man armor-centric action.Like prior entries, the central story examines Stark’s relationship to the Iron Man persona – this time making it a point to show the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist is pretty adept without his armor. As a result, moviegoers spend a lot of time watching Robert Downey Jr. fire off one-liners (with some genuine vulnerability this round) – especially when paired with kid-helper Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). In general, Downey once again delivers with the charming and self-absorbed Stark – even in scenes where the filmmakers settled for less-subtle comedy gags (an interaction with a cable news technician, for example) or heavy-handed soap box moments (such as a second act conversation about scientific ethics).