Tony Stark is suffering from what can arguably be considered PTDS after the events in New York involving a barely aborted alien invasion and his near death. His relationship with the love of his life, and CEO of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts is on the rocks and the "man in a can" (as Tony refers to himself) is faced with demons of his own creation that have come back to haunt him in the form of The Mandarin and a weaponized version of a potentially life saving technology that he flippantly passed on being a part of 13 years ago...Extremis.
Taking its cues from some of the best Marvel Comics superhero books written over the past five decades, Iron Man 3 is a fun (albeit a slightly darker-but not Dark Knight level dark) action flick infused with smart commentary on where the demons, on both personal and global levels, that plague our civilization come from in this age of constant "war on terror" and an often unregulated and villainously rabid for profit military industrial complex. Exploring the complexities of the individuals, industries, and companies at the heart of potentially life saving technologies that become more profitable when weaponized, the plot of Iron Man 3 might at first appear to be telling the same old stale, and slightly sermonizing, story. Enter Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley as two of the most interesting and well flushed out villains this side of Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Things aren't exactly what they seem though, and the demons at our gates might just be ones that we passed upon inviting into the fold to our horrific detriment.
Okay, that might sound a little deep and slightly sermonizing in and of itself, but it is all true about the smartest entry into the Iron Man franchise of movies. The best Iron Man stories focus on the struggle against the aforementioned inner demons that plague all of us internally and externally. Robert Downey Jr knows a little about battles with inner demons and perhaps that's why he manages to bring Tony's personal, professional, and superheroic battles to such believable life. He isn't the only one to shine though. Both Kingsley and Pearce make up the best Iron Man villains/foils we've yet to see on the screen and are way more intricate and interesting than Mickey Rourke's Whiplash could have ever been. Rebecca Hall, as Extremis inventor Maya Hansen delivers a smart performance as a former one night stand of Tony's who seeks Tony's help with her current dilemma involving AIM (Pearce's own Stark Industries and long term Marvel Comics mainstay). Gweneth Paltrow even gets a little more screen time here as Pepper Potts, Tony's love and life line. Don Cheadle, as Tony's best friend and comrade in armor James Rhodey, is solid as ever as well.
Director Shane Black (directing only his second film) makes the jump from much heralded action flick screenwriter to much heralded action flick director. His unique editing and action sequences breath new life into the now bordering upon repetitive repulsor powered armor histronics that we've seen on display in three films already. This fourth appearance of Iron Man on screen almost feels like we're seeing the Red and Gold Avenger in action for the first time at points.
Putting aside the obligatory and way too drawn out final cliimactic battle scene, which has its moments though, Iron Man 3 is the kind of smart superhero movie making that we've come to expect from Marvel Studios that stays true to the progressive heart of the original stories that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby developed all those decades ago. If these films stay this good, then I say keep them coming. This Mighty Marvel Movie Maniac will keep lining up for them.
Iron Man 3's opening was the highest ever next to Marvel's Avengers. Downey Jr and company's film raked in $175.3 million. Marvel's Avengers grossed $207.4 million.