The narrative purpose of any post-Avengers Marvel movie is not to majorly shake-up any of the characters at the core of the franchise—regardless of what Iron Man 3’s closing narration has to say about Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his place in the world, everything you know about him going in remains the same at the end—but to slowly push each individual piece away from alien-wasted Manhattan, towards the next apocalypse. With that in mind, director Shane Black does fine work within the paint-by-numbers structure of a solo Avengers outing. Tony Stark is charming, crass, egotistical, and the possessor of enviable wealth, fame, and success. He deals with the fallout of Manhattan—he freaks out at the mention of wormholes—and with the wreckage of an impetuous youth. In the end, he is Iron Man, and Black and Downey do their best to mash that triumphant, wailing note as long and as loud as humanly possible.
This is the beginning of Marvel Studio’s much-hyped “Phase Two” of Avengers movies, and, while they’ve got the formula figured out, holes in the fabric are beginning to show. However fine or fleshed-out the assembled Avengers seem, the love-interests, friends, and rivals propping up the individual pillars of the eventual tent of proportions beyond belief are frustratingly one-note. This is the third Iron Man film where Stark’s opponent is a disenfranchised corporate raider, where Stark’s claim that he’s not going to play ball with the United States government clashes with the need for him to protect the American status quo, and where Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) serves as Iron Man’s damsel in distress. Marvel Studios will probably never run out of oily businessmen, things that go boom, or plots against America, but considering that the best parts of Iron Man 3 occur just beyond that storytelling triumvirate is enough to make thoughts of such comic book movies pleasurable. Read more