Marvel have launched what they are calling phase 2 with Iron Man 3 and while it can’t match the sheer exuberance of The Avengers it still maintains all the elements that made Iron Man such a hit such as the high octane comic book action you could want and Robert Downey Jr. giving the role a touch of swagger and wit. It is certainly a better story than Iron Man 2 and I think it might be better than the first one though I’ll wait until I have seen it again to decide.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still haunted by the memories of his brush with death at the end of The Avengers film and sine he can’t sleep he has thrown himself into developing Iron Man suits. We get a flashback to years before Tony became Iron Man in Switzerland. Being Tony he is fascinated by an attractive female scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) but gives a geeky male scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) the brush-off. This all comes back to bite him on the ass in the present which is only to be expected since a large number of the evil villains superheroes have to battle are disgruntled scientists with a chip on their shoulder from having their genius ignored by the hero. The organisation that Killian wants help in founding is called Advanced Idea Mechanics or A.I.M. This organisation will be familiar to people who read Marvel comics as antagonists of The Avengers.
A new terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has appeared on the world scene attacking American targets with some new type of bomb that leaves absolutely no trace and so of course Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is put on the job in his War Machine armour but the government have decided to give the armour a tacky paint job and renamed him Iron Patriot. This does lead to lots of piss-taking by Tony.
Tony himself gets right on the Mandarin’s case when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) gets seriously injured in an explosion outside the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. After the Mandarin does one of his videos taking credit for the blast Tony holds a press conference outside the hospital where Happy is lying unconscious. Tony tells the Mandarin that he’s coming for him and dares the Mandarin to attack him, even giving out his home address.
Tony is at home with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he gets a visit from Maya Hansen who he barely remembers. She wants to warn him about Aldrich Killian but before she has a chance to say anything three helicopters full of the Mandarin’s henchmen start blowing up the place. This leads to a big action scene where Tony has to get Pepper and Maya to safety while the helicopters are destroying his house. Tony takes out two copters but ends up knocked into the sea and covered in rubble by the third which flies off.
When Tony escapes the rubble and flies up into the air but the damage to his suit results in it losing power and crashing in the middle of the countryside, hundreds of miles away. The world thinks Tony is dead so he lets Pepper and Rhodey know he’s still alive. He has to get his suit fixed and recharged and he gets help from a young boy called Harley (Ty Simpkins) with access to a garage and a neglectful mother. With Rhodey’s help he investigates the explosion and finds himself up against the Mandarin’s enhanced super-soldiers without his suit or his computer. This part of the film has Tony realises he’s not just a man in a can but without his suit he is still a technical genius.
I think that the villains in this film are the weakest part of it and they have no convincing motivation for what they are doing. Guy Pearce plays the sleazy sociopathic Killian very well and Ben Kingsley was a revelation in the role of the Mandarin but the main weapon on their side was secrecy and once their secrets were out they were no real threat to Tony and Rhodey. This means the climax had to rely on the predictable damsel in distress trope and of course that means Killian kidnapping Pepper, forcing a confrontation with Tony. Despite being such a hoary old cliché they managed to make it pretty exciting with whole of lot of robots and explosions.
I know people were wondering if Marvel could keep up the standard set by The Avengers and I think that with this film they haven’t tried to do that. I am glad they are keeping the solo films separate while not ignoring events happening in the others. The story is fairly straightforward and though Tony does have tough time it never sees too tough for him to handle without needing to call in help. There is a very controversial character revelation that will be very divisive but it didn’t give me any problem, but then I’m not really a big fan of Iron Man comics. I can totally understand if people feel differently about it. I know it’s a big brash expensive block buster with lots of special effects but it’s also a lot of fun and a lot of the time that is what I want from a film.