Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Review

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Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Image

The world has changed since “The Avengers.” You can’t have Norse gods falling to Earth and aliens invading New York City through a wormhole without fundamentally altering at least a few preconceived notions about how the universe works. “Iron Man 3” is the story of how these changes have impacted one man, only this particular man happens to be millionaire playboy, maverick inventor, and key member of the Avengers, Tony Stark.

More than most movie superheroes, Stark, and by extension Iron Man, truly belongs to Robert Downey Jr. Hugh Jackman and Wolverine are a definite runner up, but there’s serious distance between first and second place. There’s such a level of connectivity between actor and character at this point that it’s damn near impossible to look at one and not think of the other. And like the first two films, Downey Jr. carries the load here. Everyone else—both heroes and villains—exist primarily as sounding boards for Stark’s near stream of consciousness quips and quick banter. Hell, there are times when he plays both sides of a conversation just to have someone to argue with who can keep up.

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Image

After the events in New York, which everyone watched unfold in real time on live television, Stark has gone to a dark place. He isn’t sleeping, there’s an ever-increasing distance between himself and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and all he can do to take his mind off of what happened is to endlessly tinker in his basement lab/workshop. By the time we get to “Iron Man 3,” he’s up to the 42nd incarnation of his armor. The implication is that he has PTSD, though the script, by director Shane Black and Drew Pearce, skirts around explicitly stating his ailment. However, when a nightmare causes him to call one of his suits remotely, and it attacks Pepper in bed, the situation is obvious.

This set up is a good way to keep the movie connected to overarching Marvel mythology, while still allowing them to tell a stand-alone story. You get glimpses of how the larger world is reacting to New York—for instance War Machine has been rebranded as the Iron Patriot, because it tested well with focus groups—but in the end this is the story of one man going through hell, having everything he cares about endangered, and coping with things he thought were impossible. Going through a wormhole and fighting aliens in the streets of Manhattan will do that to a guy.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Image

Enter the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a vicious, Bin Laden-style guerilla terrorist with a flair for the dramatic, bent on teaching America a series of explosive lessons. Initially Stark has better things to worry about, namely himself, and leaves dealing with the Mandarin to those in official government channels. That is, until the attacks touch home, and he issues a very public statement calling for “a little good old fashioned revenge.” His pride, his hubris, ultimately sends him headlong into even darker territory.

“Iron Man 3” is as much fun as the previous installments, maybe more. Action and banter propel the entire film forward—at one point Iron Man shoots down a helicopter with a piano—and there’s a bleak, grim center to the glossy, candy shell that provides added depth. Guy Pearce does a nice turn as rival scientist Dr. Aldrich Killian, the mind behind the gene-altering Extremis. Don Cheadle’s Colonel James Rhodes is back for more snappy repartee with Stark, and a turn at the controls of the Iron Patriot. And Tony even gets a smartass kid sidekick for a while—a kid that he calls a pussy because his dad abandoned him.

Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Image

One of the primary themes of the movie is the idea of a pure goal being corrupted. Everyone starts out with lofty aims of changing the world, but over time those ideals shift and morph into something unrecognizable and contemptible. Compromise, pride, greed, lust for power, and similar external influences grab hold and twist what was once clean and good into something sinister. On the surface this goal is pure science used for nefarious means, but you can step back and expand the parameters of the metaphor to include individuals, political ideals, and even entire nations.

At the beginning, and popping up at a couple of times throughout “Iron Man 3,” you get Tony Stark’s voiceover narration. Ultimately this makes sense, and pays off like a long con, but most of the time it’s awkward and feels out of place. You don’t know why it is necessary, or who he’s talking to, and it doesn’t tell you anything you don’t glean from the rest of the movie. It even removes a little bit of the tension because he’s relaying his story after the fact, so you know he makes it through his adventure alive. You never really expect him to fail, and you don’t know what other potential tragedies have befallen him along the way, but knowing that dulls the edge just a bit.

Don Cheadle in Iron Man 3 (2013) Movie Image

My only other knock is that at times “Iron Man 3” toes the line of being too gimmicky, of Tony Stark having too many neat toys that just happen to be perfect for each moment. Of course he has a tool designed specifically for every situation. You worry that he’s going to become a caricature of himself, but he’s already a larger than life figure, so that isn’t much of a problem. To be honest, these are very, very mild concerns, and shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the movie. These are nitpicky things, and I’m just looking for something to be critical of.

Certainly if we dissect the film, especially coming from a comic book perspective, we could find all sorts of things to quibble with, but as a movie, “Iron Man 3” is fantastic, and a worthy follow up to “The Avengers.” With a super-fast pace, great characters and performances, and more high-tech action than you can shake a stick at, it’s difficult to imagine many other summer blockbusters living up to “Iron Man 3.” We’re talking about a movie that made more than $200 million before ever landing on US shores, and this is a nice step in Marvel’s ongoing bid for cinematic world domination.

Shane Black (writer/director)/Drew Pearce (writer)
Robert Downey Jr. …Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow…Pepper Potts
Ben Kingsley…The Mandarin
Guy Pearce…Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall…Maya Hansen


Buy Iron Man 3 on DVD

Author: Brent McKnight

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight
  • Juggernaut

    I agree completely.

    Just got back from an early viewing and am completely satisfied.

    This may not be the best of the trilogy (the first film is an unparralelled gem) but it is the most exiting. It is full of great characters, lead by RDJ who is incomparable as Tony, doing wonderfully extrordinary things.

    Don Cheadle as GTony’s super best friend, Rhodey , Jon Favreau as steadfast bodyguard Happy and Gweneth Paltrow as Tony’s CEO/squeeze Pepper are all given a great deal more depth and focus which they rightly deserve and really deliver in their roles.

    The one gleaming acheivment in my opinion was the inclusion of worthy opponents. This film has some teriffic foes for the hero to face and for the first time there is a real sense of danger for our hero. For the entire run time there really isn’t a dull moment.

    Can’t wait to see it again!

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      Sounds good. We’re going Sunday. Let the crowds die down a lil.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

      I hear a lot of people complaining about the kid, but I actually really liked that section of the movie.

      • Juggernaut

        I did as well. Some child actors have a tendency to be annoying or steryotypically wide-eyed and innocent to the point of stupidity in action movies but the kid was really subtle and believable. The fact that Tony didn’t treat him as a child, more of an equal was a nice change.

      • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

        I expected to hate the kid, because I’m kind of a kid hating asshole, but I didn’t mind him at all.

        • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

          Haha, it was cute, though. The kid who has grown up too fast and the grown up who still thinks he’s a kid.

          • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

            They kind of meet in the middle, don’t they!

  • schnydz

    I haven’t seen it yet, but that’s interesting they added a voiceover narration to the film. Kind of like some comics that use this mechanism. Did the Iron Man comics do this? Don’t remember. Dosen’t sound like they pulled it off too well though.

    • Juggernaut

      I’m not totally sure if the narration style is a device used in the comics or not but I actually saw the voiceover being more of a Shane Black signature than an Ironman staple. There are a ton of Black’s calling cards throughout the film. The narration lent a great deal to the distinction of this entry in my opinion. It really was different than the other two installments in almost every way without becoming a seperate entity. There was still a resounding familiarity and cohesiveness within not only the Ironman series but the entire Marvel cinematic universe as a whole while at the same time obtaining a individuallity all its own.

      • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Nix

        Black hates Malibu homes. He’s destroyed it twice now.

        • Juggernaut

          ***MILD SPOILERS***
          There were so many Shane Blackisms in this! The most obvious would be the setting be at Christmas, which has been an ongoing motif throughout his work. The buddy cop (one black one white). Then there was the destruction of the overhanging cliff houses, the helicopter shooting, the Christmas tree lot, the window smash. This had Black all over it!

      • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

        That’s a good point about this being the most individual of the three movies (and it definitely feels like a Shane Black joint). I feel like it has more of a connection to “The Avengers” than the two previous “Iron Man” movies. It builds more off of that movie than either of the earlier installments.

        • Juggernaut

          I totally agree. There was a strong Avengers presence throughout the film. I suppose its natural to have his previous appearance be a big part of the follow up. I’m really curious to see where they take the character and franchise from here.

          • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

            I want to see how all of this ties together with Guardians of the Galaxy.

  • Candice Frederick

    i was extremely entertained by this. they definitely upped the ante. but i do agree with you about the voiceover. i also didn’t understand why none of the characters from Tennessee had southern accents (minor, i know).

  • MP

    I went to see a Disney movie tonight, about Goofy, you know Mickey mouse’s friend! Well I might be wrong, it was actually a goffy movie called Iron man 3. I did not like the stupid drunken part in the last movie, this movie seems to have a lot more of it.

    I was expecting soo much about the Mandarin, he was the best villain before the movie, but they killed it. And all the armors, soo much to do with them and they did soo little, just a big fire work. The story was poor, development was poor. Just a verry good action pack. Good for you if it is the only thing that count. I was expecting a lot more. The worst Marvel movie since the first Iron Man. The Iron Man anime with the Mandarin was a lot better.

    • JudgeMethos

      You’re probably the ONLY person to think the original Iron Man was bad. Just sayin.

  • http://twitter.com/Supwitchamoms Aaron Schain

    If you watch the end credits scene the narration makes sense. It’s not really necessary, but it makes sense.

    • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

      Like I said, it pays off (didn’t want to spoil anything for those who hadn’t seen it), and I actually like the move, but the way it functions in the actual body of the film is clunky. It isn’t terrible, just, as you say, unnecessary.

  • Boomer

    SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

    Only a SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE (Everything that’s happened to you-I AM the Mandarin!!!! ) to summarize the Ten Rings’ involvement in Iron Man 1 and 2? I get how he could’ve gotten Vanko the passports, but come on- Justin Hammer may have ultimately worked for AIM (though even that is suspect), but COME ON, Obadiah Stane? So let me get this right-

    Aldrich Killiam gets butt hurt at a party.

    Killiam starts AIM anyway. Maya Hansen has already developed Extremis.

    Tony continues to be a mega-successful, highly profitable prick, Obadiah Stane makes tons of money, but wants Tony out of the way

    Killian sets up the Ten Rings in the Middle East during the full-scale war on terror (which would have been between 2001-2003, just to give it enough time to get powerful). Does not use Extremis virus, 2-5 years after it was developed.

    Killian orchestrates a meeting between Stane and the Ten Rings that ultimately results in Stane hiring the organization to capture and kill Tony.

    Tony becomes Iron Man in the cave, much to Stane’s chagrin, and then also has a breakthrough with the Arc Reactor technology (allowing him to make and power Iron Man suits)

    Ivan Vanko’s father drinks himself to death in a hovel in Russia, Killian hears the death-wail that Vanko screams out upon his father’s death from several thousand miles away.

    Seeing the technology that Stark has created, world superpowers and rival industrialists become interested. (AIM presumably interrupts Justin Hammer while he is dancing to funk to recruit him near this time?)

    Stane goes crazy, files an injunction, builds Iron Monger (instead of stealing one of Stark’s finished suits after killing him), goes on a rampage in LA.

    Stark stops him, blows him up in a giant arc reactor.

    Stark announces he is Iron Man, S.H.I.E.L.D. says “oh no you di’n’t!!” Black Widow flips her hair upward and suits up.

    Vanko creates an Arc Reactor out of Vodka bottles and kodiak pelts BY HIMSELF IN HIS DINGY RUSSIAN HOVEL, Killian finds out, and approaches him.

    Stark’s fame continues to skyrocket, no one cares that he commits independent, international war crimes. (except Vanko) Stark holds the tech expo in a major step toward his newfound philanthropist inclinations.

    Hammer is trying to replicate Iron Man’s suit for the military, Stark refuses to hand over the technology to the government that he made on a government contract, hacks government computers during a Senate hearing, leaves. Finds out he is dying of palladium poisoning, hires Black Widow as a personal assistant.

    Killian develops and starts testing the Extremis virus- wait that already happened years ago, and he’s just not using it, but JUST IN CASE, gets Vanko passports, cash, and a scrunchy, helps him smuggle his whiplash prototype to the United States…I mean FRANCE. Does not appear interested in Vanko’s newly replicated arc reactor technology.

    On his way home from France, Killian stops through London, where he finds a drug-addled Trevor Slattery, and has A REALLY GOOD FUCKING IDEA.

    Tony SPONTANEOUSLY decides to drive an indy car he owns. Good thing that VANKO KNEW HE WOULD DO THAT and showed up as a pit crew racer with his deadly whips on underneath. Also good thing none of the cars driving 200mph hit him.

    Vanko is detained, tells Stark he knows about the palladium poisoning. Hammer, (via Ten Rings????) busts Vanko out of prison. Hammer puts Vanko under contract, Vanko decides to make drones for his own ends.

    Tony gets shit-faced in defiance of his impending death, “hands over” his suit to the government, Tony Stark style.

    Hammer turns Mark II into War Machine, in the funniest scene in the entire series. Tony spits in the face of physics and discovers a new element that lasts for more than .0000000000000000003 seconds under lab conditions, and cures his palladium poisoning. Fury has to go, so he can deal with Thor. And by deal with Thor, I mean NOT APPEAR IN HIS MOVIE AT ALL.

    They show off the Hammer Drones at the expo, everything goes to hell, Vanko has hacked the drones, Hammer is arrested. War Machine and Iron Man take on the drones, and ultimately kill Whiplash while he talks with his visor up (so they can hear him better).

    In a fit of adrenaline, Tony and Pepper start dating.

    Iron Man is drafted by S.H.I.E.L.D., with the caveat that he is a prick that they do not trust. As his first mission, he goes to a bar to try and convince General Ross to learn to love the Hulk.

    As he cuts off his ponytail, Killian thinks to himself, maybe I should use the Extremis virus, and then immediately forgets the idea.

    Tony uses the arc reactor to build an energy independent building in NYC. Killian leaves it completely alone, and decides to blow up Tennessee instead.

    Stark decides S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know what they are doing, and arrests Loki his GODDAMN self. Meets Thor and Cap, ends up on the helicarrier, where he hacks the world’s foremost spy agency. Makes friends with the Hulk, tries to make Hulk kill an entire airship full of people on purpose.

    Kills a bunch of aliens after they invade, flies a nuke into a wormhole to decimate an entire alien race. Falls to earth, is ultimately more traumatized by Hulk yelling at him than anything else. Eats shawarma.

    Now cannot sleep, builds an additional 35 Iron Man suits, intending to blow them all up on a whim. Doesn’t actually use any of them for anything. Only tries to use the one that is broken, except that he has a fully functional suit that he uses as transportation to the nearest Islands Burgers.

    Iron Man 3.

    The only funny part of the movie was Happy circa 1999, the rest of the dialogue was just everyone being an asshole, and was not funny.

    They blew the Mandarin, they blew the suits, they blew Extremis. What
    could have made Tony 5 times smarter and more efficient is now, at best,
    a premise for Red Hulk. It was like “A Good Day To Die Hard,” starring
    the cast of Iron Man, and a broken suit.

    If he could remotely call all 35 of his suits, why did he only use the one that was nowhere near finished? (not to MENTION what he ended up doing with all the
    suits!)

    Where was S.H.I.E.L.D.? If they could track Banner, they could definitely track Stark. Also, if Stark drops in on Cap arresting Loki, you’d think Fury might drop in on Stark saving the President…

    Why didn’t Pepper use her abilities immediately? (she obviously didn’t have
    the bad reaction that others did, so she should have melted out and
    started helping immediately)

    Stark specifically mentions that his biggest fear is that the aliens will return and that he will not be prepared, so HE BLOWS UP ALL THE PREPARATION HE HAS DONE FOR THEIR RETURN BECAUSE PEPPER IS A MELTY-FIRE LADY NOW!!?!?!!

    Oh PS IRON MAN WILL RETURN FULL FORCE IN AVENGERS 2 WITH NO ARC REACTOR, NO SUITS, AND NO PLANNING. Cool.

    • Juggernaut

      LOL! Well when you put it like that I suppose it does sound stupid. Hahahahahahahahahaha!
      ***Spoilers***
      The one thing that I definately didn’t understand at all was how Killian, the “REAL” Mandarin was involved with the ten rings terrorist organization. A friend of mine made the point that he may not have had anything to do with them. He crafted the entire Mandarin persona around an idea to enduce fear. To do that he took cues from a lot of different places and one of those places was an actual world famous terrorism cell. It’ss not like the real masterminds behind that organization are going to call them on their lie. They are a bunch of terrorist! They’re not looking for fame or notoriety they are all about destruction.
      There was never any actual tie to the ten rings in Ironman 2. Vanko could have used any number of criminal means to get to Monaco. As for his uncanny knowledge of Tony’s whimsical racing career that was a bit dumb.

      • Boomer

        In Iron Man 2, the guy handing Vanko his passport and travel docs has a Ten Rings tattoo on his neck, and a little research just told me that in the novelization, they expand on this guy; apparently his name is The Mongolian, and he is supposed to be a high-ranking member of the Ten Rings. Also, the videos that Killian produces are chock full of Ten Rings logos and insignia, and I hold a different opinion of the idea that there was a preexisting Ten Rings terrorist group; if so, the videos would be in the language of their native country, and they would be outraged by the “Hollywood Great Satan” representation of their organization and cause. I think the only thing that makes sense is that the terrorists who dealt with Obadiah in the first movie, and captured Tony, had no idea who they were actually working for. The terrorists are indeed generally concerned with credit and notoriety for their attacks, for two main reasons: first, they want to demonstrate their power, and secondly, they exist SOLELY to deliver a message. Bearing that in mind, I think it makes a lot more sense that Killian was playing both sides of the war on terror by sponsoring the group that was fighting the soldiers that were likely already using his products; more enemies means they need to buy more bullets, bombs, and AIM brain maps. But then again…that’s using more logic than I probably should, considering everything else that I wrote above, haha.

        • Juggernaut

          Valid points. I wasn’t aware of the guy who gave the passport to Vanko being in novelizations of the film and never saw the neck tatoo. All, that being said it really doesn’t make a lot of sense at all! I’m hoping more people create a stir about that issue and it is addressed by Kevin Feige and/or Shane Black at some point.

  • ErickKwon

    Very very Meh as an Iron Man movie but ok as the RDJ and Shane Black Show. Wasted a villain I’d been waiting to see since “IM 1″, Pepper Potts was more annoying than in the previous two combined, repeated “IM 2’s” video game-ish ending, SPOILERS used the disgruntled vet as henchmen trope again (what the hell, is this the late 70’s?), and had a villain who fucking breathed fire!! (but hey, don’t use that particular skill again when you’re outnumbered by remote controlled armored). The only saving grace were the Shane Black-isms, but then it was disappointing that no one said “Die screaming motherfucker!” at the end

  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    Saw it! Loved it! I will give a more complete reaction and break down later but I really enjoyed it, even the twist with the Mandarin and such! Cheadle was all but wasted again but he got some good lines in. A fun flick and a great way to end a first trilogy and set up a new status quo for new films.