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‘Iron Man 3’ review (spoiler free)

TL;DR version

It’s better than Iron Man 2 and is worth watching.

The rest of the review follows …

The funny thing about the Iron Man movies is that for most of the films, they keep Tony Stark out of the suit. That’s probably because they pay Robert Downey, Jr. a lot of money and since Iron Man is purely CGI they want to get their money’s worth. If his recent comments are any indication, he’s ready for more money starting to tire of the role. He shouldn’t hang up the armor just yet though.

'Iron Man' before and after CGI

Iron Man and War Machine look like they’re getting ready for a sleepover before the CGI is added

For the nerdy among you, the movie basically adapts the Extremis storyline from Iron Man vol. 4 back in 2005-2006. Taking place after the events of 2012’s The Avengers, Tony suffers from PTSD. He can’t sleep and has built 42 different suits of armor in his spare time. A terrorist known as The Mandarin unleashes a bomb that injures Happy Hogan (Tony’s now-former bodyguard), Tony angrily provokes the Mandarin, and gets his house blown up for good measure. Meanwhile, a scientist that Tony glibly dismissed 14 years earlier resurfaces (now 150% less nerdy than when we first see him) with technology he wants Tony to invest in. Could the two storylines be related? Also, Col. Rhodes is back and newly rebranded as the Iron Patriot. In the comics, Norman Osborn (aka the Green Goblin) is the Iron Patriot but yeah, just forget about that.

The Mandarin was first introduced in the comics in 1964 and that version is considered a bit racially insensitive now. You’ve seen Mad Men. The world was a different place back then. Anyway, they’ve wanted to introduce The Mandarin in the Iron Man films for a while but couldn’t decide how. The way they ultimately chose to handle the character in the film is the best way to do it.

The movie was written and directed by Shane Black who helped relaunch RDJ’s career with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and who also wrote 1991’s The Last Boy Scout and Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2. There are definitely points in the movie where it feels like a buddy cop movie and I mean that as a compliment. They also use a familiar trope where, for a time, Tony Stark is paired up with a kid but they do it in a way that doesn’t feel treacly. Tony treats the kid the way he’d treat any adult and, as a result, it doesn’t slow the film down. The story, writing, and pacing are well done and it’s an enjoyable film. The film makes Tony work through his problems without being able to simply blast his enemies away and it works. Tony is best when he’s cracking wise but that’s scaled back considerably in this film and the PTSD is there to humanize him and give him something to overcome.

As much as I enjoyed it, there was one thing that really bugged me (Beware! Very minor spoiler!). I can buy that Tony doesn’t enlist the help of his fellow Avengers but I don’t buy that he never for a moment even considers calling on S.H.I.E.L.D. or Nick Fury for some backup considering he’s personally attacked by an international terrorist on American soil. Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were in both previous Iron Man films and the Avengers. Of course they’d be involved and the omission is pretty glaring and it would’ve been a completely different movie had they been a part of it. I get not wanting to make it a watered down Avengers film but S.H.I.E.L.D. should be the connective tissue for these films to the point that it’s now stranger when they’re not in the movie than when they are. The role Nick Fury had in Iron Man 2 would’ve worked well here; drop in, nudge the hero in the right direction, and exit without stealing the focus of the movie. They got it right in the first two films and even in Thor but missed the boat entirely in this oneIt’s not a huge problem and it doesn’t really hurt the film.

There are several well-placed Oracle commercials in the film including the most unlikely place you’d ever expect to see an Exadata server. Also as a geek I gritted my teeth when Tony misused ISDN in the same scene as the improbably placed Oracle server. Since it’s a Marvel film, stay for the scene after the credits when it’s revealed who Tony is narrating the events of the film to.

It’s an enjoyable film with Marvel’s most showy superhero. Check it out.