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Reviews of Iron Man 3 - "Head and Shoulders Above Iron Man 2"

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These reviews originally appeared on Quora.

***Spoilers Ahead***

Review by Danielle Maurer, Writer & SciFi Fan

This movie was head and shoulders above Iron Man 2, and on par with the first Iron Man film.

What I found the most compelling about Iron Man 3 was that they took a simple line from Avengers - the question of who Tony Stark was without his suit - and ran with it. Tony is deprived of his home and a fully functioning suit for the majority of the movie. He has to make do with what he has and who he is and at the end is able to realize that the suit doesn't make him Iron Man. He is always Iron Man, suit or no. I found one of the highlights to be his infiltration of the compound in the middle of the movie, with all the gadgets he built out of a hardware store.

Tony's also a lot more emotionally vulnerable in this film. The events at the end of Avengers have affected him deeply, and he has a lot of inner turmoil around them.

There are some impeccable fight scenes in this movie. I found the fight choreography to be especially dramatic during the scenes where Tony only had two or three pieces of the suit on at a time (his "escape" scene in the compound in Florida stands out).

Pepper has also come a long way. No spoilers, but I was not at all shocked by the ending, and I was proud that she had her moment. She complements and completes Tony much more in this movie than the others.

Where the movie fell a bit more flat for me was in the villains. The "twist," if you can call it that, was rather predictable and I had it figured out about 20 minutes in. On top of that, it was never entirely clear exactly what the Mandarin wanted. It wasn't just terrorism, that was apparent. I have a feeling there may have been some deleted scenes that explained his motivation better, but as it was, I was a bit confused as to why they were being so ruthless. Though admittedly, the Extremis-powered soldiers were very very cool to watch.

And I found the dialogue to be clever and very solid. It was witty and sharp and kept my attention. My mind never wandered away from the film.

All things considered, for a threequel, this was pretty damn good.


Review by Mark Hughes, Screenwriter, Forbes Blogger

The best of the Iron Man franchise, and the best of Marvel-Disney's solo superhero films so far. Continue reading for more detailed review, with mild spoilerish elements but nothing major (most you've seen in commercials and read about in reviews, probably). I included a final section (well-labeled) of spoiler discussion, so skip that if you haven't seen the film yet!

It's easy enough to make superhero movies that feature a person in a suit flying around and smashing villains, with lots of CGI and popcorn-fun action. It's another thing to trust your characters so much that you are willing to take your superhero out of his suit and say "the most interesting thing about our character is who he really is OUTSIDE of his costume." Marvel had enough faith in Tony Stark and the creative team to let them prove that point, and they proved it beautifully with this film.

Tony Stark is indeed more interesting than his Iron man persona, and a great point this film makes is that he's actually also stronger than his armor. The film explores the weaknesses in both the man and his machines, and demonstrates that both are impressive while also both being vulnerable, but at the end of the day the armor is just a shell that can be cracked while Tony is the core that won't break.

He is a man who now realizes that the world is full of threats bigger than he ever imagined, that his own life will be in constant danger, and worst of all that the love of his life -- Pepper Potts -- will always be at risk and the dangers will keep getting worse. Not many superhero movies take time to consider the long-term effects on the psyche of the heroes, and only two films have explored in depth the notion of PTSD in superheroes -- Iron Man 3 and The Dark Knight Rises. We see Tony Stark unable to sleep, having anxiety attacks, and obsessively building armor in preparation of every doomsday scenario his scarred mind can envision that might threaten him and Pepper.

Tony is afraid that all of his self-certainty and abilities won't really be enough, he fears failure when it will matter most, and yet he doesn't recognize the true threat when it's coming right toward him. He in fact challenges it, his hubris conflicting with his attempts at preparation, blinding him to the danger. And does he ever pay the price for that mistake. Torn down, stripped of everything he had, left for dead and lost, Tony has to find out who he really is nowadays without the Iron Man armor -- is he anyone at all, or has he been consumed by the alter ego in some way? Earlier in the movie, we see him injecting mechanics into his own body to merge himself more to his armor, a mirror of the film's villains and the themes about losing our humanity amid our surrender to dehumanizing technologies, and Tony's choice to take the machines inside himself prove -- like much in this narrative -- to be both a blessing and a curse, a case of the hero having to discover that what he thought gave him strength might also be his greatest weakness after all.

Tony has to return to his beginnings, a mechanic in a humble little garage trying to get a single Iron Man suit up and running using relatively primitive methods. This mirrors the first film and the original creation of the Iron Man armor, notice. It's a return to basics, Tony revisiting what made him into Iron Man and rebuilding the armor and his own psyche, but this time the lessons will be quite different. He needed the armor to survive and find purpose, but ultimately he needs to eschew the armor to survive and find purpose. He comes to trust himself without the armor, to test his own mettle instead of metal so to speak.

I was very happy that Pepper got a stronger arc this time around, and that she gets some cool time in the armor as well as avoiding just having to be rescued (more on that below, in the spoiler section!). She's firmly in charge of the company now, doesn't need to consult Tony about decisions, puts him on notice that his behavior has to change, and has plenty of important scenes that drive the plot. The film also happens to have multiple female characters, some of whom talk to one another about lots of stuff entirely unrelated to the male characters, by the way, so it passes the Bechdel Test. The nature of Pepper's overall arc in fact goes a long way past just "passing" the test, in fact.

The villainous plot was pretty unique and surprising when it's all revealed. I'll say more about this in the spoiler section below, but Guy Pierce does a great job as Killian while Ben Kingsley is awesome as Mandarin. Whatever you think they're up to, you're mistaken, I guarantee it.

The action was fun and avoided being a glut of CGI, using CGI only when necessary and then to great effect. There are a few big action set pieces involving the armor, and they are doozies -- the "plane" sequence in the trailer is so great and looks totally real. But most of the action involves Tony out of his armor, more classic action-hero stuff of which director/co-writer Shane Black is a master.

I'm already a big fan of Shane Black's movies (I love Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and other of his films), so seeing him take on a superhero movie and deliver so well -- with his friend Robert Downey, Jr. in perfect form -- was a real treat. The tradmark humor is there as well, taking the constant good sense of humor from The Avengers and running with it. I think the mix of classic action-adventure, lots of hilarious jokes, RDJ's unmatchable charm and charisma, and superheroism with such exceptional VFX is going to appeal to most audiences, for sure.

I loved this movie, and it'll frankly be hard for any other films to give me the same level of sheer enjoyment I got watching it. I'm looking forward to Man of Steel a LOT, but it's got its work cut out for it if it wants to match the overall entertainment level and character development of Iron Man 3.

Now, some spoiler discussion real quick...

1. Pepper's arc is already pretty damn good, but she actually saves Tony not once but TWICE, first at the beginning while donning the Iron Man armor, and then at the very end she is the one who actually defeats the villain and rescues Tony. Oh, and notice, she saves the day at the end after Tony's attempt to save her fails! Think about that a moment -- Tony has to confront his greatest fear after all, he actually fails to save Pepper's life and she appears to fall to her death. But then she returns, reverses the situation and comes to his rescue.

2. Mandarin's shocking revelation is a direct commentary about the war on terror and the racism inherent in the character's actual depiction in comics. Look closely -- there's actually no real "terrorism" in the film after all, those explosions were all accidents and the villains merely exploited America's obsessive fear of terrorism to cover up the accidents. Killian invented the fake Mandarin persona based on racist, simplistic perceptions about foreigners and non-whites. Which is in fact a direct reflection of the comic book character, who was invented during the Cold War as a caricature representing American perceptions and fears of the Chinese. Do you see what Shane Black did? He adapted a racially insensitive comic book villain by having him be an actual intentionally racist caricature invented by the movie's real villain. And Killian turns out to be the REAL Mandarin, complete with a big tattoo of a dragon on his chest and advanced technology probably (I bet it'll be revealed in the next film) based in part on alien technology (in the comics, A.I.M. gets its technology and weapons from Hydra, and remember in the films Hydra's alien-based tech has been co-opted by the government for weapons development). This is similar to the way Batman Begins took the white minor character Henri Ducard and merged him into the non-white villain Ra's al Ghul, but he used a decoy person who pretended to be Ra's.

3. Killian's actual motives were complicated. He originally suffered from physical impairment and part of his motive in pursuing the technology was related to his own condition. But then he saw the power it truly entailed, and the technology led to weaponization. Killian started building his own army, using government and other funding to support his endeavors, and the entire time notice something important -- he didn't target Tony Stark, he actually at first went to propose that Tony's company invest with him. Yes, he flirted with Pepper and wanted to rub it in her face that he's now strong and healthy and successful, but his main goal was always to gain further funding and access to additional technology for his real pursuits. He didn't target Tony for attack until Tony publicly stated his intention to hunt down and kill the Mandarin. As events unfolded, Killian's grudge against Stark arose again and became more important, especially after Tony came after Killian again. But Killian's primary focus was growing his organization and his power, and even trying to be the power behind a new president -- another example of his important lesson that it's better to be the person pulling strings behind the scenes than the public face of power. This is a lesson relevant to Tony's situation, obviously, and plays into Tony's choice at the end to destroy his Iron Man persona.


Review by Dan Holliday,

Note: I've never liked the Iron Man movies. I feel like I'm the only one. Iron Man just never had an appeal to me. Somehow, though, as a supporting character in a large cast ("Avengers"), I liked him. Maybe that's because that's all he ever was in the Marvel Universe, and putting him back into a supporting role is where he works best [for me].

Note, Note: ***SPOILERZ***

Anyhoo. I hated Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and I really didn't like Iron Man 3 all that much. And my biggest quibble is one that I cannot even support well, but either way, it's one I have.

In all the iterations of Iron Man, the enemies were sort of realistic, science[y] based this or that. The enemies in this one seemed to have magical powers. And I guess after Avengers and Thor, the "magic" has been let out of the bag (as it were), so it was only a matter of time before we got comic-booky magic type things. But whatever, it bugged me, and that's that.

The story was incredibly poorly written. Tell me again why the world's richest man and one of the greatest geniuses of all time doesn't anticipate (a) an earthquake destroying his home and/or (b) his many dozens of enemies attacking and destroying his home and therefore building several dozen Iron Man suits and storing them at dispersed facilities around the country/world? I could have predicted that.

And I mean, it's not like his home is inconspicuous and that announcing his address should have been that big a deal (for Christ's sake, I can find any celebrity home right now). So, giving out his address (a) should not have been that big a deal and/or (b) should have also been an impetus to store several suits elsewhere because he knew that the fight would eventually come to him and his home perched precariously on the edge of a cliff.

And, let me get this straight, his sundry suit parts, on their own little rocket thingies flew from Tennessee all the way to Florida . . . um. Mm-kay. 

Also, yeah, I knew what was going to happen to Potts the moment she fell. Like, oh, how surprising. You already told us what was happening to her just six seconds before that. And, um, that plot device was completely stupid. Hated it.

The ONLY creative thing about this was the Mandarin and how he was a puppet to those behind the throne. That was a poignant commentary on scapegoats and distraction tactics in politics today and was almost a genius move. I loved that. 

All in all . . . a severely lackluster movie. It's bad when the Hulk and Thor movies are more entertaining than this "hugely popular" type movie. And, while I wanted to give this one star, I was nonetheless, somewhat entertained by the movie and wasn't totally bored through the whole thing.More questions on Iron Man 3: