Undeniably it was the first Iron Man that set the scene for The Avengers series to come and, while Iron Man 2 was largely disposable (as evidenced in Iron Man Three), this is the only series of movies in the ongoing comic book genre to stand up to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films.
Plot-wise, this one is hard to go into too much detail on for fear of spoilers stemming from a few exceptional twists that really help to make the film as exciting as it is and certainly make it one of the best of the Marvel run so far (I’d say only the Iron Man really stands up to it overall, but wasn’t a patch on this in terms of the story).
Like its predecessors though it’s the characters that really make Iron Man Three what it is. Downey Jr. is back on fine form as Tony Stark and once again seems to be having an amazing time on screen but also manages to get across the things that Stark is going through post-Avengers in terms of, essentially, post traumatic stress disorder, and the balance between humour and seriousness is absolutely spot on.
When it comes to the recurring characters it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts who grows the most here as she develops from the role of assistant/girlfriend into a real character and actually features in a few of the films most pivotal moments in great ways, which was very nice to see and is certainly one of the things that sets this apart from pretty much every other superhero movie of recent years.
Looking at the new characters, as ever with superhero movies, it’s mostly villains and shady characters that fill this category and this is no different, Ben Kingsley nails The Mandarin in a way that works without stepping into the dubious waters of the comics original interpretation but still makes him fascinating and, as is remarked, the Marvel universe’s Bin Laden.
Guy Pearce is also excellent as the Tony Stark gone wrong cypher. This is one of my few criticisms of the plot, and only because of what’s come before, as all three Iron Man films feature a character who is essentially Stark gone bad as a villain, though I’d have to say this is the most successful and genuinely threatening of the bunch.
As with all these films things boil down to a spectacular fight scene set piece, but, what set this apart from the previous offerings, was that it avoided the simple ‘robots hitting each other’ approach and added a much more genuine sense of jeopardy for some of our heroes that was nice to see following some of the other threat-less action scenes that have closed films of late.
The other thing that really hit home here was that it had the feeling of being a swan song, this takes me back to my initial point about where it sits in the Marvel movie ‘phase’ system as, while the very end of the credits told us “Tony Stark Will Return”, this felt like it could be the end for Robert Downey Jr. in the role and, with his contract at Marvel seemingly being public knowledge, we do know this is the last of the movies from his original deal.
It was this notion of continuation that was stuck in my head as I left the cinema after Iron Man Three, thinking about where Marvel are going now (there’s a lot in the pipeline) and how Iron Man, Tony Stark and Downey Jr. might play into this – this left me feeling a bit odd as, while I had really enjoyed this film and, on reflection I’d probably say it’s the best of the bunch so far, I couldn’t help but think “where now Marvel, how do you get around this one?”