To begin Phase Two of the MCU Review series, we’ve got Iron Man 3. In the MCU’s timeline, the film directly follows on from The Avengers, and follows Tony Stark as he faces one of Iron Man’s greatest comic book antagonists: the Mandarin.
At least, it’s supposed to. The film’s big twist – that the Mandarin is just an actor hired to pretend to be a villain to cover up the real antagonist’s unstable (and pretty dull) bio-weapon plot – has been covered countless times in countless places, so I’ll simply say this: it was a creative gamble on Marvel’s part, and it made them look like they’d put children in charge of writing the film.
That said, Iron Man 3 is, generally speaking, visually excellent. It has more suit designs than ever, buckets full of comic book Easter eggs, and a plot that relies heavily on CGI which has actually aged fairly well.
Even making those considerations, Iron Man 3 is not a particularly good film. Its plot is somehow at once incredibly convoluted and ridiculously dull, with the big reveal of the film’s true villain being both predictable and entirely uninteresting.
To be fair to Robert Downey Jr., he is able to deliver a solid turn as a more sympathetic Stark, but the film entirely rests on these laurels. Its other characters are given very little to do, except to fit into their established roles, whether that be as a sidekick, a henchman, a villain or as comic relief varies from character to character – but none of them stand out or have anything particularly memorable to do.
It’s a shame, really, because Iron Man 2 tried to step up a little, but this post-Avengers sequel only proves that Iron Man really works best as part of a team – despite his regular insistence to the contrary.
It’s really hard to find anything else to say about Iron Man 3, because, aside from some flashy visuals, it’s generally unremarkable. There’s a passable attempt at examining trauma, as Tony grapples with anxiety attacks in the wake of his near-death in Avengers, but even this is essentially skimmed over in the film’s second half, giving way to an effects-heavy late battle scene which just feels jumbled and hollow.
Overall, I really tried to like this film, but I just couldn’t. In fact, I feel very little about it, but I guess the most appropriate word would simply be “underwhelmed”.
Summary: A by-the-numbers plot and entirely forgettable supporting characters, Iron Man 3 gives one of the MCU’s biggest heroes almost nothing to do. It begins with an interesting question – what about the mental health of our heroes? – then all but forgets it, offering only the slightest semblance of character development in a throwaway epilogue scene.
Highlights: Ben Kingsley is fairly eye-catching in his role as *ahem* Trevor, and the film’s CGI holds up quite well.