MCU Retrospective: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley

The Overview
When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
After the huge, ground-breaking success of The Avengers, we’re now back with the solo adventures, and kicking off Marvel’s “Phase Two”, is the third outing of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. There’s a change up in the director’s chair as Shane Black (who had previously directed RDJ in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) replaces Jon Favreau. The change in director is possibly the kick up the butt that this character series needed after the disappointing Iron Man 2

When I am feeling kind, I would describe Iron Man 3 as solid. It is a solid action film, and certainly on that side of things there isn’t really much that I can fault. But where so many other superhero films fail also, Iron Man 3 once again suffers from having a weak villain (or villains) and this does put a dampener on things.

Sticking with the positives for now however, this film is packed with memorable action set-pieces, and of all the Iron Man films so far, it certainly feels the most visually impressive. The entire sequence which sees Stark’s billion dollar mansion plummet into the ocean is an incredible feat in visual effects, the plane jump (“Remember that game, Barrel of Monkeys?”) is exceptionally well executed, and the “House Party Protocol” scene which rounds out the film is just really bloody fun! 

Perhaps where this film succeeds the most however is in the narrative of Tony Stark. From the first Iron Man to the second, we don’t really see a huge change in his character, and even in The Avengers, he is still that cocky asshole that we know and love. By the time we get to Iron Man 3 however, it is clear that the job, and the responsibility is beginning to take it’s toll. Tony is a broken man by this point, with the events in New York weighing particularly heavy on his mind. It is clear that he is suffering from PTSD which also leads to severe anxiety attacks, and I thought this was something which is not only handled very well, but it provides an extra layer to the character. We get to peel back the layers of the iron suit and see a little more of the man underneath, and this makes him a whole lot more human. We can see perhaps why Tony acts the way he does, and the bravado is hiding something really quite damaged. It’s an exceptional about-turn, and is easily the best acting work from Downey Jr. in the series so far.

With all that being said, this film still fails to elevate itself above just being “pretty solid” work. The villain, in Guy Pearce’s Killian, is once again a spurned ex-connection of Tony Stark’s (just like Iron Man 1 & 2…), so it really starts to feel a bit same-y. And just when you think you are going to have the bigger threat of the Mandarin (Kingsley) to contend with, the film pulls the rug from you in what – in my mind – is a totally unforgivable fake-out. It is not only a waste of Ben Kingsley, yes the Ben Kingsley, but is a shocking waste of this character; arguably one of Iron Man’s most iconic comic book nemesis’. It all just feels a little bit lazy, and for that reason, the film also seems to lack the coherence with the rest of the MCU. 

Whilst it is fine for a film to feel “standalone”, I perhaps would’ve liked to have seen wider consequences of the events in this film, and a villain who didn’t feel so similar to the ones we had seen before in Iron Man’s stories.

The Rating

MCU Ranked
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review. Observant readers will notice I have switched The First Avenger and Iron Man. It may switch again…stay tuned!

  1. The Avengers (2012) – ★★★★½
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 
  3. Iron Man (2008) – 
  4. Thor (2011) – 
  5. Iron Man 3 (2013) –  
  6. Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★½ 
  7. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 

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