Summer 2013 movie season is here. The Avengers has left Marvel a lot to live up to. Phase One of their movies are complete and now with Captain America, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy set to go, the bar is set pretty high. The first Iron Man was such an unexpected smash, the second felt rushed and was a bit of a let down to most, and Avengers was comic book movie gold. How does Tony Stark's third solo outing hold up?
The movie begins after the events of the alien attack on New York. The Avengers are mentioned and it's the events of that movie that have left Tony even more of a workaholic than before. Throw in some insomnia and he's even more messed up than usual. We get some great flashbacks of Tony before the incident that made him the armored avenger. An brief encounter from his past, his relationship with Pepper, and a new terrorist threat force Iron Man into service minus the team. A new weapon called Extremis comes into play and threatens the Tony's world. Stark is ego driven, brilliant, and resilient, but is that enough to save the world again.
The movie begins and ends with Robert Downey Jr. Rumors are circulating that Avengers 2 will be his last as Tony Stark and I certainly hope not. He seems to have been born to play this role. He is great in and out of the armor. He is believable as the reluctant hero and perfect as the smart assed billionaire. The great thing about Stark now is his mortality. He is still driven, but he wonders if what he has to offer is enough to be the hero the world and Pepper needs. He is shaken and even at times afraid. Downey owns the screen at every turn and you can't ask much more from the star of the Marvel Universe. His scenes with the young boy from Tennessee are fantastic. It reminded me of the AT&T commercials with a super hero. Tony trying to fix his life by taking advice from a child is fantastic.
Guy Pierce shines. I might be biased for my love of him in Memento and as a villain in The Count of Monte Cristo. He channels a little Val Kilmer from The Saint and a some who looks like he fell out of a Bond movie. It's good to see him back in classic form. He is a decent villain, but he doesn't quite steal the screen the way Loki did. Pierce is good enough for the story and at the end of the day, most people will like him well enough.
The Mandarin finally makes his debut. In the comic book mythology he is Iron Man's greatest foe. When Marvel brought Iron Man to the screen the first time out Mandarin talk quickly began. He was dubbed too fantasy for the realistic world of this Marvel Universe. When the Avengers opened a worm hole above New York and unleashed an alien attack, one would think the Mandarin became a safe call. Kingsley looks great and The Mandarin appears to be ruthless. There is quite a twist that made be pause for a minute in disbelief, but it makes complete sense. Fan boys will either love it or immediately get their hate on. It doesn't take much to get them fired up, but most of them probably have little other to release their stress beyond "skinemax," and message boards. Never the less, I will not ruin the twist.
There are a lot of different armors in the movie and all come into play. I am not crazy about the concept of the new armor, but it is cool to see how much Tony has improved his arsenal. The action is great and Iron Man 3 is really a story of Tony finding himself again. The plot works and the Air Force One rescue is top notch. The comedy is balanced well with the situation. Shane Black does a good job of fitting his film into the Iron Man universe established in previous outings. I am not sure if this is the last outing of Downey's solo adventures, but I hope not. Is it as good as The Avengers? No, but it doesn't have to be. It is better than Iron Man 2. I still love the first and that is probably because I was so surprised by how good that film was. If there was a set up for Guardians I missed it, but I enjoyed the post credits scene. I think Superman will win this summers hero battle, but Iron Man is certainly a great start to summer full of potential blockbusters.