So, the Marvel films have all been good. They’ve ranged from the merely good to the exceptional, but none have been bad, and the shared mythology simply adds to the depth and texture of this universe. The upside? You know the next one will be good. The downside? It had better be good!
The first Iron Man introduced us to this “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, and it was a corker. Everything worked and worked well, even if the the story was summer-popcorn thin. Robert Downey Jr. was seven kinds of awesome. The sequel upped the ante for awesome action, gave us a better villain (Mickey Rourke’s Vanko), and was also a little doofy. (I still don’t like the scene where Iron Man and War Machine fight at the party.)
Now, a threequel is already dangerous territory, but add in that this is the first post-Avengers film, and the stakes are crazy-high. The Man in the Iron Mask is now charged with starting off Phase 2 of this Cinematic Universe. Can this film do all of this without descending into Hollywood overblown nonsense territory?
I’d say they pulled it off. The film, as a whole, is not quite as good as Iron Man, but it surpasses Iron Man 2, and holds its own with the rest of the Marvel milieu.
Tony Stark is his usual anarchic, super-intelligent, wise-cracking self. Unfortunately, he’s also suffering what seems to be (though, strangely, is specifically described as not this) PTSD. He very nearly died in the final act of The Avengers, and unlike most movie characters, this trauma spills over into the next film. He has trouble sleeping. He works obsessively (well, nothing new there) and puts his relationship with Pepper (the always welcome Gwyneth Paltrow) in jeopardy.
This emotional turmoil serves as the humanizing backdrop for the actual story. It’s an interesting amalgam of the previous films. There’s a frightening terrorist figure, as in Iron Man: Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. There’s a man nursing a grudge against Tony, as in Iron Man 2: Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, incidentally one of the most cumbersome names I’ve heard in a while. There’s a Tony-out-of-his-element sequence. There’s a working-with-Rhodey segment. (Incidentally, Don Cheadle now feels like part of the series, and not simply a replacement for Terrence Howard.)
That’s a lot of plot balls to juggle. Throw in an old flame of Tony’s (Rebecca Hall), and a not-too-cute kid (Ty Simpkins), and it’s even more complicated. But I never felt lost, or overloaded with B plots. Tony’s struggles tie everything together nicely.
This one does up the ante for science fictiony craziness, to the point that many could be turned off. Not me, though. If I can accept a guy who turns into an “enormous green rage monster”, I can accept the stuff that happens in the final act of this film.
For those interested in the now-required tag after the credits, this one is funny, but doesn’t actually extend the mythology or anticipate a future film. So, wait at your own risk.