The first Iron Man was great. The Incredible Hulk was better than the first, Iron Man 2 was forgettable, Thor and Captain America were fun, but that first Iron Man movie was great. It made the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe possible. So I can understand Marvel’s desire to kick off the post-Avengers era, Phase 2, as they call it, with the same hero who made Phase 1 so special. But does it make sense for Iron Man to go on his own adventures anymore?
This isn’t a comic book, there aren’t individual titles every month, there’s one or two films a year. When we last saw Tony Stark, he was teamed up with a God, the strongest person in the universe, a time-traveling American hero, an expert marksman, and Scarlett Johansson – not to mention a network of super spies and their flying aircraft carrier – to save the world from an alien invasion. Obviously Iron Man 3 had to be a more personal story, but its scale still ended up seeming too big for the other Avengers or SHIELD to not show up at all.
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is like the ultimate terrorist, really good at blowing stuff up all over the world. No one knows who he is or where he’ll strike next. So Tony Stark takes it upon himself to stop him. Doesn’t that seem a little weird, after The Avengers? Wouldn’t Captain America be a bit concerned about a mega terrorist threatening the president and the American public? Wouldn’t SHIELD, the greatest spy agency in the world, be looking into this? I mean, SHIELD was all over Iron Man 2, remember? I’m not saying Iron Man 3 doesn’t address these issues, in fact the main subplot is how Tony is dealing with the after effects of New York, but it’s not very satisfying. I’m all for a more personal story, one that takes Tony out of the armor more, which this is, but it also can’t be a massive, save the world story at the same time, which this is.
This is Tony’s story, though, and I mostly enjoyed it. Robert Downey, Jr. remains really, really good in the role, and more of him playing Tony Stark cannot be a bad thing. Given Shane Black’s knack for snarky dialogue that itch is nicely scratched. The movie actually has a bunch of characters, both old and new, but they are largely pushed aside to follow Tony’s journey. Even Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle drop in and out of the story for long stretches. I think Guy Pearce got a lot of screentime, but it’s hard to remember, because it’s Guy Pearce.
By the way, and this is a spoiler, what the fuck is with these movies and evil industrialists? Jeff Bridges, Sam Rockwell, now Guy Pearce, it seems like every one of Tony Stark’s peers is a super villain. Is that just supposed to highlight how lucky the world is that Tony is such a great guy? Sure, that last battle was awesome, but I’m sick of evil businessmen. Give me Fin Fang Foom in Iron Man 4!
Anyway, I liked Iron Man 3. It had a few really funny scenes, and a couple great action sequences too. It’s cool. Next up is Thor: The Dark World, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier next year. I like those characters and look forward to their sequels. Hopefully they will both make a more compelling case for why everything that happens doesn’t attract the attention of the other Avengers. But after Iron Man 3, I kind of wish Marvel had started Phase 2 with a new super hero.