The third of the Iron Man films and the first of Marvel's Stage 2, I was unsure about this movie for a while before going to see it. I enjoyed the first film and very much enjoyed Robert Downey Jr's performance but the sequel left me cold, using a poor pair of villains (Whiplash and Justin Hammer are distinctly D list) and really seeming to serve as a vehicle to expand the Marvel film universe and introduce SHIELD as a major player, as well as setting up things up for Captain America.
Given how unimpressed I was with Thor (same weak plot, with a cast that mostly left me cold; apologies to the people who enjoyed it but I don't really see the appeal of either Tom Hiddlestone or Chris Hemsworth), I was unsure about this film, worrying it would stick to the tried, tested... dull plot line that's come to characterise so many of superhero films.
Having been to see it tonight, I can safely say that I needn't have worried. It's a fine film, albeit with a few niggling things that I would have liked to have explained and mixed feelings over the villain. Its a film that sets out to address the question of what Iron Man is, aside from a guy in a suit and does it by taking Tony Stark's toys away from him and forcing him to rely on his wits and intelligence. The only link to the wider universe is the presence of
The arc in the film is, again, about what it means to be a hero but this time rather than having a journey from cocky bastard to hero we have a self repair story, with Tony damaged and over compensating from his experiences in Avengers Assemble, building more and more suits of armour. This reaction ties perfectly to the character, as he says he 'fixes things'. The story premise is also perfect for the character, some of the great comics stories are tales of Tony fixing himself, even if it means clawing his way back from the dead; something seen most recently in Stark: Disassembled. I don't wish to offer too much in the way of spoilers, but suffice to say that Stark is more self assured and level headed by the end of the film than he is at the beginning.
There's also an element of flesh versus metal to the whole enterprise, with villains who are based on upgrading biology to grant upgrades (aka superpowers) and the Iron Man suit as both a support and a crutch for Tony; something he must rely on and work around.
The fight scenes are beautiful in many places and the final fight (the one with all the suits is a thing of wonder) but its here a few of the cracks of the film start to show. The maguffin it utilises to create the antagonists is a cool idea but, in the film, seems woefully limited. I can appreciate the special effects budget was needed for more important things but it felt a little lazy in places.
There were a couple of things I would have liked to have seen explained, why was AIM using the ten rings symbol from the first film and why was Killian so mad about the Roxxon Oil disaster? Both were neat touches but it would have been really nice to have an explanation for them.
The use of the Mandarin was something I'm in two minds about. On one hand it was a really cool idea, a beautiful way of including a classic villain, arguably Iron Man's A list foe, without succumbing to racist stereotypes that arguably date from Fu Manchu and the days of the Yellow Peril. On the other hand... it's the Mandarin for crying out loud, making him a half soaked actor, stoned out of his head on drugs, is a waste of a character whose presence always means that bad shit is about to happen and who's a formidable foe all on his own! I realise that he had to be the villain for this film, closing out the series with anyone else would have been ridiculous and the Iron Man rogue's gallery is patchy at the best of times - he doesn't need lots of villains, when he's his own worst enemy.
The film works very well, closes out the trilogy nicely and puts us in no doubt of where things are going, setting the character up for Avengers 2. The end of titles scene is nicely done, but sadly doesn't set up anything up for the next film in Phase 2, perhaps it doesn't need to, and is definitely worth staying for. It's a good film, if you like superhero films, it gets away from the daddy issues and even the angsting to an extent. Go, see it.