The third Iron Man movie is everything I’ve come to expect from Marvel’s superhero movies: charming, slickly produced, highly entertaining and completely hollow. Iron Man 3 is a good movie, but suffers in comparison to last year’s Avengers. Like the Avengers, its main selling point is spectacle. Unfortunately, Iron Man 3 cannot match the Avengers on that front. It does have a greater focus on character than the Avengers; it takes the Tony Stark character into some logical new areas but unfortunately lacks the focus to clearly explore them.
Iron Man 3 has the usual Marvel high production values. Like the precious movies, it makes the viewer believe in the character and his fancy suit. The villain’s powered minions are less effective. They just sort of glow and are only vulnerable when the plot says so. Blows that do nothing one time are lethal the next. While the fight scenes are well directed, they lack consequence. Nothing anyone does matters until the script says it does. Still, it looks really good.
Robert Downey Jr. continues to be perfect as Stark. As always, he is perfectly snarky and self-centered. Paltrow is great as Pepper Potts, and likewise for the villains. Even though he didn’t direct this one, Favreau screen time as Tony’s bodyguard Happy is expanded, and he manages to feel more necessary than he has been to this point. Iron Man 3 is just an all-around well-made movie.
There are several important developments for Tony in this movie, but they are not pulled off well. First is him experiencing PTSD after the events of the Avengers. A laudable and logical development, but it is largely dropped halfway through. There is also the starting monologue about creating our own demons, but it is not really followed up with what happens in the film. It adds up to a movie with a lot of good ideas that doesn’t quite execute them.
Still, I am feeling spoiled by the Marvel movies of the last half decade. A superhero movie of this quality a decade ago would be lauded as the best action movie ever. But now I want more. I have seen Marvel get the characters right and tell a origin story or a decent follow up, now I want a movie with themes, a movie with some brains behind the glitz. Say what you will about thee flaws of Nolan’s Batman movies, but they at least tried to deeper meanings. Iron Man 3 makes some strides in this direction, but its feeble attempts only serve to highlight how empty the whole thing is.
This review is sounding more negative than I intended. Iron Man 3 is a very good movie. It has everything one should expect in a popcorn movie. It scratches that superhero action itch as well as any movie. It is definitely better than the second Iron Man, mostly due to the lack of a shoehorned in SHIELD subplot. Now that the Avengers is its own thing, Iron Man doesn’t have to waste its time setting it up. So go see Iron Man 3. It is a solidly good movie.