Iron Man 3
My second foray into the world of film while on mini-vacation was with Iron Man 3, a natural shoe-in given it just came out and its part of the expanding Marvel Cineverse line of interconnected superhero films that are managing to be consistently decent, and occasionally....as with Iron Man 3....downright amazing.
Iron Man 3 follows on the heels of both Iron Man 2 and Avengers, and manages to continue from where Tony Stark left off in both prior films. It's the first post-Avengers Marvel movie, too; more than a few references helped to convey that this was the same world in which New York had nearly been invaded by aliens, and Tony Stark is having a bit of anxiety and PTSD after the fact; it seems that thwarting an army of alien invaders and staring into the void of space at a vast star fleet that but for the limits of wormhole technology could easily conquer Earth was a sobering (sorta) event for him.
As Tony deals with his problems by not dealing with them (and building lots and lots of experimental Iron Man suits in the process) other things are afoot. A flashback to earlier days leads to a plot involving Aldrich Killian, another genius like Tony and the founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM)....means nothing to the average viewer I suppose, but to Marvel fans it's the first appearance of the evil organization on the big screen. No chance of a Modok on the horizon, I suppose...but who knows, they need lots of plot material for the future, I could see it happening in some fashion.
While AIM seems to be up to no good there's the Mandarin hacking into satellites and terrorizing the US with mysterious bombing incidents. The Mandarin is portrayed very much as an Osama Bin Laden type, and the videos presented do such a good job of evoking that disturbing menace of modern terrorism I actually found it a bit uncomfortable. This is a good thing because....well. Lets just say that like Oblivion, Iron Man 3 has some fantastic reveals that I would not want to spoil. Long story short: the Mandarin is a great villain, and you'll see why. (Given the ticket sales to date, you probably already know why, but hey, someone in some cave out there probably would like to see for themselves, I figure!)
Oh, and Pepper Potts gets to have a bit of fun in this movie. It's well worth watching for this alone. Pepper, to contrast with Oblivion, is an example of a female support character done well. She is relevant, she contributes and she and Tony complement each other. It is entirely possible to have a strong male lead and strong female support/lead without making their roles nothing more than "the gals Tom Cruise sleeps with and ponders life about."
Ultimately this film is, like its predecessors, about Tony's personal ongoing battle to succeed despite his self-destructive tendencies, and to continue like a roller coaster on the hero's journey. Unlike the other two films, this one actually pulls it off better than before, which is pretty hard to do, considering the first two Iron Man films were great.
Iron Man 3 has more plot, focus, heart and effort than the prior two Iron Man films combined, and manages to take the series in a direction only made possible by virtue of the fact that Marvel's team of directors and writers are really, really trying to do this well. It's got a few flaws....very, very minor flaws. So minor that all I can really point out is: way to do some product placement for a range of Iron Man action toys, guys. But all told it's a fantastic A+++ movie.
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