"Big man in a suit. Take that off, what are you?", Captain America famously quips at Tony Stark in 'The Avengers'. A throwaway line to some, but one that holds more significance than many originally imagined. Just what is Tony Stark without his suits? Is he really Iron Man, or is it that suit that makes him Iron Man? That line was just a hint of what we could expect from 'Iron Man 3', Marvel Studio's first film of their new Phase 2, and the first film following the mega blockbuster, 'The Avengers'. Director Shane Black, who's credits include writing the first two 'Lethal Weapon' films, as well as directing Robert Downey, Jr. in one of his comeback films, 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang', decided to explore that very question, while sending Tony Stark through an emotional wringer that will change who he is, and how he sees himself, forever.
Following the events of 'The Avengers', Tony Stark finds his life is in dismay. He's not sleeping, and he's now realized he's not the center of the universe, and in fact, he's nothing compared to a man who turns into a monster, a Super Soldier, or a DemiGod. He's confined himself to working on his suits, trying to make himself feel important and needed. But when an attack by the villainous leader, the Mandarin, hits too close to home, Stark finds himself on a revenge mission against the man who is causing fear across America.
'Iron Man 3' finds itself in a very tricky situation. The film has brought a new director and writer into the fold who hasn't been involved in the series before, while also trying to be a follow up that is worthy to stand in the shadow of last year's 'The Avengers'. Thankfully, Marvel Studios was up to the challenge, and 'Iron Man 3' proves not only to be a spectacular follow up, but what may be the studio's strongest film to date. Shane Black, along with screenwriter Drew Pearce, have found a way to really dig into just who Tony Stark is, and that's what makes the movie work. So much time has been spent about what the suit means for Stark, and what it makes him, but this film decides to go in the other direction. Taking away the suit is something that makes Stark very vulnerable, sort of taking him back to the beginning of the first 'Iron Man' film, where all he has was a box of scraps, and he had to use his genius to save himself, and the day. This is the perfect story to use following 'The Avengers', because it feels like the most personal we've seen for the character. We've dealt with him trying to save his own life, and getting past his issues with his father, but we've never seen him this beat up and shaken.
Thankfully, even with a serious undercurrent like that to the film, it's not light on humor, thanks to Shane Black's fantastic dialogue. If you've ever seen any of his previous films, you know how excellent it can be. Lots of one liners and quips, and great banter between characters. This has been evident in everything from 'Lethal Weapon', to 'Monster Squad', and even 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'. Black's dialogue and feel for the world seems so natural for these characters. It just flows so well. Stark is more off the cuff than normal, which makes sense with where he is in his life, and Black's black humor really fits him. Black also fills the movie with so much great action, it's safe to say it may be the best action in the 'Iron Man' series to date. Many have said that the films have always seemed to be a bit anti-climatic when it came to their final third act showdowns, but thankfully that doesn't happen here. They went all out, and it's quite a wonderful spectacle. While it may not be as epic as the grand Manhattan finale of 'The Avengers', it's an exciting and fun finale fitting for this film, and it's one you soon won't forget.
One thing that the Marvel films has always excelled at, mostly, has been their casting. 'Iron Man 3' really is no exception. Once again, Robert Downey, Jr., who has now dawned the suit for the fourth time, seems to feel more comfortable than ever, and he's really given some excellent material to work with. He gets to explore parts of Stark's feelings we haven't seen before, and he this really seems to be the best he's been in the role. The entire cast really does shine though, although sadly, Don Cheadle's Col. James Rhodes seems to get the short end of the stick, because with the very Tony-centric story, we don't get a lot of time for what's going on with his character. When he's on the screen, he's nothing short of great, and his chemistry with Downey, Jr. is excellent, but he really isn't in it too much, which is disappointing. But new to the series stars Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley are what everyone really wants to know about. Peace is great as Aldrich Killian, a man from Tony's past who seems to want to throw a monkey wrench into Tony's life. He plays the role so cool, calm, and collected, he's just plain fun to watch every time he's on screen. But it's Sir Ben Kingsley as the film's villain, the Mandarin, who steals all the scenes he's in. Kingsley absolutely chews up the scenery, and brings to life one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had up until this point. It's a truly great performance, and it's great to see Kingsley bringing the character to life.
'Iron Man 3' isn't just a great summer blockbuster, but a great film overall, and one that just begs to be watched again and again. Bolstered by an excellent cast, a very intriguing story, great dialogue, and a lot of humor, this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe at its finest. While it may not be the most fun film in the series, it's a perfect followup to 'The Avengers', as well as being the strongest, and most well made film to date. Shane Black really brings this series to great new levels, and it shows that fresh blood for this franchise was just what it needed to grow. This is definitely one film not to be missed.