“You’ll never see me coming.”
I think I’ve heard that line upwards of twenty odd times over the past few months. The Mandarin: sitting with his freaky haircut, threatening the world and my favorite superhero of all time. I didn’t realize how true his words were until I walked out of the theater Thursday night.
Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black, is not like any Marvel movie you have seen. It is different — retrospective and raw. That is not to say, of course, that it has suddenly become dark and deep like the Dark Knight. Tony is Tony, with or without PTSD, and is facing challenges that have torn down the fabric of his existence.
Following Tony’s voice-over as he watches each of his suits explode, the Paramount logo appears and the lyrics to Eiffel 65’s “Blue” pour over the speakers as we flash back to New Year’s Eve 1999 at a Technical Conference in Bern. Sound strangely familiar? It should. Familiar faces greet us in this short glimpse into the past. But, I digress. The flashback shows Tony as he was, and how his choices then led to the consequences he faces now. We then flash to the present, where Tony is having a party in his basement. Well, him and his little robot helpers, that is, who somehow got their hands on a dunce hat, and are testing Mark 42 armor. You read that right — Mark 42, that’s how many armors Tony now has.
Iron Man 3 is really about Tony vs. the armor. Not in any literal sense, of course, but after the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark is now suffering from some serious PTSD and is hiding in and behind his various armors. In Iron Man and Iron Man 2, any time Tony jumps into battle he needs his suit to be his protection. Iron Man 3, however, finally gives us Tony sans-suit in a dramatic, often funny and deadly serious series of events, where Tony finds himself without his metal suit to protect him as he begins to infiltrate the base of operations of the movie’s villain. Tony, just Tony, raw and exposed, is amazing to watch. What may be his coolest action sequence to date is his kick ass fighting with just one suit-arm and suit-leg.
If you’re reading all of this Tony-fighting-with-guns-and-other-homemade-tools completely-without-his-suit business and hate the very thought of no ‘iron’ for Iron Man, never fear. While Iron Man 3 finally gives you Tony without his suit, it also gives you the suits in a way the big screen has never seen them before. In the epic final battle sequence, Tony is not confined to his suit as he has been in the past. He leaps from suit to suit as subsequent ones are destroyed. Hulkbuster Armor makes an appearance, along with every imaginable alteration to the classic Iron Man metal.
As Robert Downey Jr. insisted during the filming of The Avengers, to truly understand Iron Man and demonstrate his growth, he needs his leading lady behind him. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is absolutely vital to Tony in Iron Man 3, and there are, of course, some truly touching moments between the couple. But thats not it. All you feminists and comic book junkies who have been dying for Pepper to get off her ass can finally shut your mouths, because Pepper whips out some surprising, completely badass moves during her fight sequences.
Of course, there are some other amazing characters in the film as well: The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), Happy Hogan (Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau), Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). All of the actors were perfect for their roles and gave RDJ his perfect surrounding cast, though none quite live up to the newest addition to the Iron Man team, Harley Keener, played by Ty Simpkins. In a film that is really about Tony finding himself and figuring out what becoming Iron Man has done for him, to him and to everyone that he cares about, this little kid becomes Tony’s tail, and gives Tony the best bang for his buck in witty banter, perhaps out of any character encountered to date.
Due to the fact that there are many twists within the plot line I don’t want to ruin anything for you by going into great depth about the movie’s villains. However, I will say that Iron Man 3 is the first Iron Man where, as Shane Black put it, it is not just “two men in iron suits fighting each other.” The threat against Tony and the world is, well, awesome. It is scientific in origin and stronger than anything found in an Iron Man movie to date. The evil he fights is truly a target worthy of Tony’s army of suits.
Reaching the final movie in the trilogy and going out with such a glorious bang was perfect. It makes me nostalgic for all of the Iron Man movies, and serious props are due to the writers over the years: Justin Theroux, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Drew Pearce and Shane Black. Along with directors Jon Favreau and Shane Black, this amazing team was able to turn the backseat, lesser-known hero, Iron Man, into a name synonymous with superhero. They were able to redefine the Marvel superhero movie and, though many people claim to be “over” superhero films and their fantastic natures, the Iron Man trilogy was the reason that other movies like The Avengers were even attempted. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man changed the superhero film genre. While the credits rolled amid shots from all three Iron Man movies, and the completed series flickered before my eyes, these final moments made up one of the most beautiful and sad parts of my week.
Iron Man 3 is worth every moment we have spent waiting for it. It does not end with some ridiculous “more to come” angle, and there is no mid-credits scene plugging the next movie in Marvel Phase II. The Avengers is only referenced to act as a catalyst for Tony’s emotions (apart from one adorable, high amusing scene after the credits). Iron Man 3 is the end of the line. It is the perfect superhero ending, and nothing in my mind can beat those final lines that never fail to send a shiver down my spine,
“I am Iron Man.”