Tony Stark outside the armor in ‘Iron Man 3’

Carljoe Javier
Here is Rappler's review of the latest 'Iron Man' installment

NEW THREATS. Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow return with Don Cheadle to face new enemies. All images from the 'Iron Man 3' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – With “Iron Man 3″ we get pretty much everything we expect. It’s a large adventure with big explosions, scary bad guys, and a lot of funny moments. More importantly, we get a fulfilling installment that, rather than capping the series, promises that there is much more material and so many more stories to tell, both in the Marvel Film Universe and in the ongoing trials of Tony Stark. 

The brilliance of Stan Lee and his co-creators’ works was that they made characters who weren’t just about heroics and powers, but also about flaws, about weaknesses and the foibles and the ongoing struggle with their humanity. It’s the human element, being tested by the cosmic or the super or the magical, which made those comic book conflicts so memorable.

And we get a good deal of that with this 3rd installment. 

Watch the trailer here:

READ: Tony Stark strikes back in ‘Iron Man 3’

Drawing liberally from elements of both Warren Ellis’s “Extremis” storyline and Matt Fraction’s “Invincible Iron Man” run, the film gives us a sprawling story. Writer Drew Pearce and co-writer and director Shane Black change or combine characters, cut out a lot of the movements in those two big series, and leave a lot of the political commentary out of it.

Importantly, they crystallize themes and major ideas, translating not only action and excitement, but also character development and the kinds of conflicts that drive a movie. 

Granted, there are times when certain twists and motivations might draw a raised eyebrow. And there are some aspects to it that I found a bit cute or too easy (particularly the irresistibly cute kid who serves as sidekick). 

HOW EVIL IS HE? Ben Kingsley's Mandarin isn't anything like you've read in the comics. Watch the film and find out why.

But then the movie moves quickly enough, and through so many different settings and situations, that there’s barely any time to register questions. The character work is also stellar, so that you get drawn into the story, no matter how improbable it gets at points. An added plus to the movements is that there are elements to it that scream ’80s action flick (hey, Shane Black does have a hand in the evolution of modern action movies, so this is no surprise) so it falls within that genre, allowing for us to accept certain movements. 

The biggest character is, of course, Tony Stark, who is again played with aplomb by Robert Downey, Jr. We see him struggling throughout this movie, facing off against demons which he will admit are of his own creation. The films have yet to tap his struggle with alcoholism, but here we see the errors of his ways as a pompous playboy.

We also have him struggling with two big ideas in the wake of the world-changing events in “The Avengers.” He is a man who has faced death, faced space aliens tearing through a wormhole to conquer Earth. And that thought can incapacitate him. Further, he is also struggling with the idea that he might not be able to protect the one person he loves the most, Pepper Potts (Gywneth Paltrow). 

Watch B-roll footage here:

READ: Iron Man 3 suits aka Iron Legion revealed

A man from his past, Aldrich Killian played by Guy Pearce, reappears with a revolutionary way to rewire the body in the form of Extremis. At the same time, a terrorist styled after Osama Bin Laden, calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley in an unforgettable turn), has been masterminding a series of bombings to teach the American President a lesson.

These external threats come at a time when Stark has been obsessively building new iterations of the Iron Man armor, all as a way of sublimating his fears and insecurities. 

The film deals with a lot of heavy themes. The moment that you introduce such elements as suicide bombings and remorseless terrorists, you immediately escalate things. 

EXHILARATING MOMENT. Iron Man in freefall

To offset that, the film employs a lot of humor. While previous installments in the franchise were funny, this is even funnier. There’s a lot of slapstick and physical comedy, especially with the Iron Man armor. It is surprisingly effective when, in the middle of an intense dramatic scene, the mood is broken or punctuated with a gag or joke. It’s masterful in the way that it achieves a balance by deploying such moment. 

A major aspect of the film that I like is that it shows us a lot of Tony Stark outside of the armor. It’s here that we explore one of the major themes of the film, the identity of Iron Man. Is it the armor, or is it the man who wears the armor? 

Of course all that leads to a bombastic, overblown climax with explosions and stuff flying all over the place and loads and loads of CG. Which is fine and fun in its own way, though it seems more something on an action movie checklist rather than an eventuality. 

Watch Jake the Movie Guy’s interview with the cast here:

READ: The Avengers win big at MTV Movie Awards

The film takes pains to look ramshackle in attempts to establish tone while also covering up some narrative holes. And it does fly off the rails at moments. It reaches far and it shoots big, and not all of it works. It suffers from the sprawl. But at the same time, I enjoyed how it went all over the place. 

The film wanted to do so much, and it packed a lot in. For the most part, “Iron Man 3” is successful as a sequel.

It has got a lot of heart, it has got a lot of laughs, and it has got a lot of action. It falters at some points and in some scenes, but it moves so quickly and offers us so much that it’s easy to overlook those faults. – 

Carljoe Javier

Carljoe Javier doesn’t know why people think he’s a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he’s not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games…Then again, those people could be right.

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