It’s been almost 5 years since the release of Iron Man 3, and it’s still as divisive as ever. Although some have grown to love it, while others still don’t like the twist and turns the film has. For me, I had mixed feelings toward it when it first released. I like Shane Black’s style, but I thought it was a bit too much at times. It has been a long time since I’ve seen it, so I rewatched it recently to prepare for this review. My thoughts on the film have surely evolved, but do I like it more? Let’s find out.
And yes, there will be a whole lot of spoilers here so be sure to check out the small indie film first.
The first ten minutes or so sets up a lot of the plot elements in the film, and it’s a bit jarring at first. From Tony’s new nanotechnology to the villain, we get a heavy dose of setup. It’s not terrible, but it’s noticeable enough for me to realize how much the film was accomplished early on. With that being said, some of it works quite well. The initial flashback does a great job of setting up Aldrich Killian, and the first time we see Tony have an anxiety attack it’s effective. However, things like the Mandarin set up and Iron Patriot stick out like a sore thumb. They are important later on in the film, but I found them to be the most distracting plot elements.
With all that being said, I think the first act is my favorite part of the film. After the clunky opening, the movie finds a sweet spot and proceeds at a steady pace. In fact, the rest of the film never skips a beat in terms of pacing and reveals. I think it’s the film’s biggest strength in terms of the storytelling aspect. Sure some things are introduced way too quickly, but the way some of it plays out well in the Pepper Potts/Aldrich scene and when Stark’s house gets attacked. If it wasn’t for the awkward terrorist plot that’s shoe-horned in several scenes, I think it would’ve turned out better. Yes, the Mandarin-plot sets up Tony Stark inviting the bad guys at his house, it doesn’t mix that well with Killian’s story. In fact, I think it weakens it, but I’ll get to that later.
Some say after this intense action sequence the film begins to dip in pacing, as Tony Stark is stranded in Tennessee. During this time in the film, we truly get the feel of the Christmas setting, but I don’t think there’s any real reason for it. The movie doesn’t do anything with it other than have it in the background, so a summer movie taking place during the winter was an odd choice. The main highlight of when Stark is in Tennessee is his relationship with Harley, a kid played by Ty Simpkins. They have great banter and the kid is pretty smart, but again I’m not sure he makes enough of an impact in the story or for Stark.
With that being said, Shane Black puts a certain charm to the middle part of the movie and makes it entertaining. Tony battling it out with the Extremis people without his suit is certainly something different, there’s fun to be had watching him use his wits and bare knuckles in fights. This particularly comes in handy when he decides to hit up the mansion where the “Mandarin” is staying at.
If your a die-hard fan of the villain in the comics, then I completely understand if you disliked the big reveal. The “Mandarin” simply being a puppet to invoke terror amongst people isn’t at all like the source material, even I was disappointed with the outcome. With that being said, know the reveal this time around it’s actually quite obvious what they were going for from the very beginning.
Every time we see him it’s on TV or at front of a fake background, we never get a sense of this “power” he possesses. The twist itself works within in the film, but I’m still of the belief it wasn’t actually necessary. The whole “Mandarin” subplot simply gets in the way of things and draws attention from much more interesting aspects of the story. With that said, this scene does lead up to the most intense action sequence in the film.
Although by the end of it it’s revealed Tony was never in the suit, something that sort of lessens the impact of the scene, it’s still exhilarating. I think the film’s main issue is concluding its own storylines in a satisfying way. This is seen with Tony Stark’s PTSD, one of the best parts of the films doesn’t really get a solid resolution. Guy Pearce’s Alrdich Killian is entertaining at times, but never reaches the depth he had at the very beginning. By the end of the film, I couldn’t care less for the character. Another Marvel villain being mediocre isn’t extremely surprising, but I think he had the potential be much better.
At the end of the day, Iron Man 3 turns out to be an enjoyable watch. It intentionally plays with the audience at points and that created disappointment for many people, but it actually works within the film. One of the best story elements is Tony Stark’s PTSD. From the get-go when Tony Stark’s PTSD from the Alien attack in The Avengers is revealed, we get a very solid and believable foundation for it. Roberty Downey Jr. nails it every time, but I don’t think it gets a satisfying resolution. This could be said for various plot points in the film, especially the setup and reveal of the Mandarin. With a strong first act and steady second, it makes up for the meh last half hour or so. The film doesn’t always work, but when it does, it really does.