Iron Man 3 Review: A Satisfying Conclusion to the Blockbuster Franchise

iron man 3

The Marvel Universe of utter genius created an earthquake of revenue for the US film industry. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that the most recent Iron Man 3 has exceeded the initial international gross for The Avengers (2012) with $195.3 million and more cash still to come. The film’s popularity became apparent to me in the booked out Sunday night screening I had the joy to be in. Now that the Walt Disney Company owns Marvel and is happily rolling in money, the question on every action lover’s lips is: is it better than Iron Man 2? Or will it crash into the dead sea of films no one wants to speak of again?

The set up for Iron Man 3 is more hopeful than its predecessor with a tie to the past that strengthens Tony Stark’s character. Mr Stark’s newest adventure begins on New Years 1999, where he reminds us of his detestable qualities and ignores avid Stark fan and scientist, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). It’s only now when Tony’s past catches up with him and causes problems. The entertaining tangle of events that follow can be propped to the comic Extremis, which is considered one of the best Iron Man stories and the material the film is largely based on. It is comforting the writers are adapting the best of the books in order to give us the most enjoyable theatrical Iron Man experience possible. For more information on Iron Man as a character in general, you can read about it here (from someone who has a lot more enthusiasm for the subject than me!).

Jon Favreau directed the first two films, and ditched the third to work on Magic Kingdom instead. Shane Black enters the scene as replacement director and co-writer, and gives the movie a very different feel to the previous two. He interestingly explores the darker side to Tony Stark and his personal struggle, which gives the film a healthy dose of humanity and more depth beyond explosions all too familiar to the action movie goer. Comedic moments and fight scenes are strong and take place in some interesting, unconventional locations and lead to some too-close calls (Mr Stark really should have died a couple of times). The film is altogether more well rounded and an emotional roller coaster; if you’re not laughing or touched by the emotional moments, you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next.

Characters who were brushed over in past films are given more attention: Pepper is given time in the spotlight for a change, and shows off how badass she can be. Viewers who critique superhero stories for being too focused on the male save-the-day role will be delighted by this addition. The newest culprit, The Mandarin, is a very entertaining villain. You both empathize with him and dislike him. His ideas bring in a question of morality and right/wrong. Because of how human, and to some extent charismatic, he is, it is quite frightening to watch his antics and his clever plan unfold. A plot twist that occurs later in the film is likely to pleasantly surprise, not just for being a plot twist (in Iron Man, really?), but for allowing the script to break free from the majority of bad-guy formulas. The ending of the film reiterates on its beginning narration and leaves us with a comforting feeling of closure, with a noticeable change in Mr Stark’s character.

The cinematography and lighting is great, and shows off the beauty of a variety of different locations. Tennessee looks mesmerising with its mix of ice, warmth and colors, and the special effects shine with the new, shiny additions and improvements to the Iron Man suit itself (not just bigger guns like in Iron Man 2, thank god). Since it is the only Iron Man film that takes place after The Avengers, newbie to the franchise, Brian Tyler, worked hard to try to make the musical score darker and grander. He succeeds, as the score enhances the scenes – from blood boiling action to the spine tingling dramatic moments, like when Robert Jr has an emotional setback. It was a risky, but appropriate, choice to invite new talent to bring new flavors to the differing material.

There isn’t much about the acting that hasn’t already been said. Robert Downey Jr is both hateful and sympathetic, managing to portray despair as well as complete utter egoism. Guy Pearce is surprisingly good as Killian, making a bad-guy both likable, interesting and someone the viewers somewhat care about. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper shines with slightly more screen-time, and more emotional role to play. Let’s not forget Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, who takes on a different role in this film than the comics, but effectively portrays two opposing sides of the emotional scale.

If you’re a fan of Iron Man this is a definite title to see. For those who aren’t into the superhero business, you may enjoy it, but if you are looking for deep and meaningful fare, this isn’t it!


What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Not great, just good! This is the last of any Marvel movies that I am gonna watch (with the exception of X-Men, of course!)

  2. Craig Phelpstead

    I really like your review, but I have to admit, that from the trailers I thought that Iron Man 3 looked really promising. Unfortunately, Marvel and Shane Black let us down.

    The first Iron Man film rocked. The second one was disappointing, but it grew on me. The third does neither of these things. Some seriously poor story decisions left me shaking my head in disgust in the cinema. Too many non-jokes, not enough action and a serious step backwards as far a Marvel Studios is concerned. They compromised their coolest film franchise for cheap laughs. Leaves me worrying about the rest of Phase Two now.

    • Jordan

      Is that the poor story decision including the main villain? I am interested to hear your perspective.

  3. Jordan David

    I agree that Black gives IM3 a “very different feel.” However, I disagree with you when you talk about how “human” the Mandarin is. Not only does he alter his DNA to give him super powers, hence making him SUPER human, but he is also a complete sociopath who is fine with murdering countless of innocent people. I would consider this to be quite INhuman. I guess it goes without saying that there was never a moment in my mind where I empathized with the Mandarin. I will address this and other issues with Black’s ill-directed ‘Iron Man’ sequel in my upcoming review.

    • Jordan

      I suppose it was more they actually gave some sort of backstory to the Mandarin which seemed like a universal experience (getting stood up by someone/ignored by someone you care about) (film ver)- I could emphasize with his motivations on that level. However, you’re right…. at least beyond that point he becomes super human! lol.
      Looking forward to reading your differing opinion review!

  4. I really enjoyed this one. I thought Shane Black’s vision was much needed. It’s hard to believe that he’s only directed two movies, this being the second. He has a very distinct style. Great review, by the way.

  5. J. Bryan Jones

    You definitely told everyone who hasn’t seen it what they needed to know. I’m glad that there’s a realistic positive review out there from someone who clearly understood the movie. (While the two of us came to different conclusions) It’s a good review to have on the Artifice.

    • Jordan

      Thanks J! I was starting to feel like a minority since lots of people didn’t seem to like the movie. Really good to hear you liked the review 🙂

  6. Joshua Sammy
    Joshua Sammy

    I’ve haven’t been a fan of Tony Stark, because of his sheer pig-headed arrogance, so I watched Iron Man 1 and 2 just to get caught up for the Avengers. By the second half of the Avengers, though, I realised that Stark’s never been about his static character – he’s about his development. And from then on I fell in love, especially with Iron Man 3. I appreciate action, but it’s not as important for me as for other people, so I had absolutely no problems with this movie. The action was epic, the character development was sublime, and the score just swept the scores of the previous movies under the rug. Actually, one thing I said after seeing that movie is that Tony Stark has finally been given his ‘classic’ style superhero theme – and just when he finally deserves it.

    • Joshua Sammy
      Joshua Sammy

      Oh, my, I went into a mini praise rant and forgot why I commented in the first place – Iron Man 3 isn’t a conclusion to the franchise, though, is it? I can’t imagine them stopping now, what with the Avengers 2 on the horizon and Iron Man looking better than ever before?

      • Jordan

        I mean the ending in terms of the “Iron Man” films. Obviously we’ll see Stark again in Avengers.

        • Joshua Sammy

          No, but what I mean is, aren’t they likely to make an Iron Man 4 etc, even if after Avengers 2? I can’t see them wanting to stop at the moment.

    • Jordan

      Really glad you liked the movie. I agree that this movie is heaps better because Tony is given a soul XD at least more soul!

  7. Amy Wood

    I really liked your review, but I would have to agree with the first couple of comments, it was quite a disappointing movie. It was not as funny as people were claiming and I actually wasn’t fond of the fact they added in his personal struggle for a more humane/realistic touch. This has recently become a trend in hero movies, Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall did the same thing, and it just seemed cliched because of that. I was hoping for more badass action and comedy. I think the best part of the movie was the final action scene with all the suits and I did love Guy Pearce as the villain. I can totally see why people would love it, I personally just expected more.

    • Jordan

      Fair enough, I tend to approach movies expecting them to be bad so I rarely get disapointed 😛 On the contrary I don’t think it is cliche to give Stark more ‘humanity’… it is a recent trend, as you say, but I think it’s important to be able to see the darker side to characters. Personally i find there’s too many action flicks with not enough attention to characters.

      • Amy Wood

        I don’t really see it as a darker side to him, more an imperfect side, which is great to see but I think they could have come up with a more original situation for this to come through in, rather than anxiety attacks over what happened in the Avengers. I think this is just coming from my lack of feeling ‘wowed’ by this final instalment though. I watch so many films, and the more I watch the harder it is for a film to satisfy me. I sort of miss the innocence of when I was younger and thought every film was flawless 🙂

      • E.g., The Transformers Movie Series.

  8. Michael Buchanan

    I’m a huge Iron-man fan and this movie is an utter disappointment. The fact that this is what followed the Avengers does not help it any. And the change to Mandarin from Comic to big screen will certainly not make any Iron Man fans enjoy this movie

  9. Nicole Christou

    Great review, Wynter, I pretty much agree with what you’ve said. When I found out Shane Black was taking this one on, I was over the moon! What I loved and appreciated most about his vision for the film was the decision to essentially strip Tony Stark of his armour to reveal the man beneath. I thought it was necessary to focus on his struggles as a normal person as opposed to Iron Man.

  10. Thomas Munday

    Great review! your analysis of the characters and performances was punchy and fun. I thought Guy Pearce’s character was a fun mix of energetic, sympathetic and slimy. He was a much better shade of evil than the kooky and useless villains in Iron Man 2. Ultimately this instalment was entertaining and breezy without being shallow at the same time.

  11. Tom Beasley

    There’s a fair amount of merit to be found in Iron Man 3, but equally there’s a lot wrong. This is a Shane Black movie at the expense of being an Iron Man movie.

    Black plays everything for laughs in a way which completely undermines the drama. The Mandarin is dealt with in the most awful way possible and the child sidekick made me want to cry.

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