Marvel's "Phase Two" - the post-Avengers slate of movies which will include the upcoming Thor: The Dark World, the shooting Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the in pre-production Guardians of the Galaxy, all leading up to Avengers 2 - kicks off with Iron Man 3 which serves as a conclusion to the trilogy; an impression that the closing credits being a greatest hits clip reel from all three Iron Man movies reinforces.
After the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. killing it as usual) is a wreck - racked by crippling anxiety attacks, unable to sleep, drifting away from his lady love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, who's never been hotter and when you see the movie, you'll get what I mean by that), spending his nights tinkering on a literal army of suits, implanting sensors into his body to act as magnets that attract the pieces to him. The man inside the iron is corroding.
Meanwhile, a shadowy terrorist called the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is reining terror via television hacks portending doom for the President as a lesson to America which is never really made clear. After Tony's pal Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is critically injured in a Mandarin attack, Tony dares the Mandarin to come and get him, which he does in a spectacular assault, showcased in all the ads and trailers, on his Malibu home. Barely escaping with his life, Tony crash lands in Tennessee where he needs to find a way to repair his broken suit and psyche and figure out what the Mandarin is up to and how it connects to soldiers working for a slick Guy Pearce who has developed a tech called Extremis which may have miraculous powers albeit with terrible side effects.
While there is plenty to like in Iron Man 3 - especially some great quippy stuff and a scene involving Rhodey's (Don Cheadle) account name and password - there are some weird flaws in the script which hurt things overall. Comic book fans who were already at Nerd Rage Level Orange over the casting of a non-Chinese actor as the Mandarin will go full Level Red/DEFCON 1 when they see how the character is handled in the movie. Non-comic fans probably won't mind, but comic fans will howl. The overarching plot of revenge targeting the President never makes sense and the motivation of the villain seems specious. They really should've had Joss Whedon do a hardcore polish on things.
When watching the Avengers, as awesome a feat it was of juggling so many balls, I felt like something was missing though I couldn't quite put my finger on what could've been improved. Here it's easy to easy to diagnose the core problem: the weakly-motivated villain who seems aimed at the wrong target. Somehow co-writer/director Shane Black (who wrote Lethal Weapon and collaboated with RDJ on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) decided that Tony Stark's nemesis should be fear and thus the villain villain was given short shrift. It's like how the awful Skyfall wanted to make Bond getting old the problem so we were given a terrible villain who was little more than a disgruntled ex-employee who should've taken his grievance to his union rep.
I've seen a lot of hyperbolic bashing of Iron Man 3 around the Internet from Manichean nerds whose binary mentality can't see anything between flawless victory and epic failure, so they're calling this the "Worst. Marvel. Movie. Ever." In a world where the first Hulk, Elektra, and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (not to mention DC's pathetic The Dark Knight Reloaded) are fighting for last place, perhaps the twerps need a trip to the optometrist to have their sense of proportion checked. There's also an element of "it doesn't feel like the other movies" from the same people who'd be first to whine that "they're just recycling the same stuff over and over instead of doing something different." Ignore them.
It comes down to this: Is Iron Man 3 good, does it have good writing, acting, action and is it worth seeing. The answers are yes; mostly, but could've been improved in the plot; yes; yes; and yes. Nuff said!
Score: 8/10. Catch a matinee.
While there are a couple of spoilers in the trailer, it's interesting to see how much isn't in the trailer and I've chosen to skip over those parts in the review because it's nice to be surprised.