Film Review: ‘Iron Man 3’

Iron Man 3

Despite the inevitable franchise fatigue, this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect

The third time is neither a particular charm nor the kiss of death for Marvel Studios’ robust “Iron Man” series, which has changed studios (from Paramount to Disney) and directors (Shane Black subbing for Jon Favreau) but otherwise toyed little with the formula that has so far generated more than $1.2 billion in global ticket sales. The inevitable franchise fatigue ― plus a markedly unmemorable villain ― may account for the feeling that “Iron Man 3” is more perfunctory and workmanlike than its two predecessors, but this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect to earn its weight in box office metal.

Part of the rich appeal of the first “Iron Man” (2008) came from the inspired casting of Robert Downey Jr., who brought loads of impish charisma and insouciance to the part of defense contractor turned iron-plated superhero Tony Stark. It was particularly fun to watch Downey becoming Iron Man, bobbing and weaving about in his space-age rocket suit like a novice surfer trying to stand up on a wave. You can only do an origin story once, alas, and some of the magic was already gone from 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” which pitted our hero against a stock Russian heavy (Mickey Rourke) in a standard-issue revenge narrative, but still found ample time for Stark and romantic foil Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to do their very passable Tracy-Hepburn routine. There was also a sly running commentary on the celebrification of American culture ― and, in Stark’s effort to rid himself of the shrapnel slowly poisoning his body, a deft analog for Downey’s own widely publicized battle with various forms of addiction.

Most of that is absent at the start of “Iron Man 3,” which finds Stark in fine physical shape ― if a bit mentally unhinged from the events of “The Avengers” ― and living in relative domestic bliss with the comely Ms. Potts. All of which leaves little for Black (and co-screenwriter Drew Pearce) to do other than summon up the latest villain from the Marvel dugout: A bearded, bin Laden-esque baddie who calls himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and who claims credit for a series of terror bombings, one of which, a frightening attack in front of Hollywood’s historic Chinese Theatre, has landed Stark security honcho Happy (Favreau) in a coma. (Although clearly unintentional, the movie’s recurring images of severed limbs and burning bodies can’t help but strike a queasy note in light of the recent events in Boston.) Spewing his boilerplate anti-American rhetoric in a series of crudely made videos that mysteriously jam the television airwaves, the Mandarin promises that “the big one is coming,” just in time for Christmas no less.

If we’ve learned anything from fantasy villains ranging from Darth Vader to the “Dark Knight” trilogy’s Ra’s al Ghul, first appearances can be deceiving. Suffice to say that the Mandarin is in some kind of cahoots with a couple of blasts from Tony Stark’s past: an experimental botanist (Rebecca Hall) and her wealthy benefactor, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), whose prize project, Extremis, involves “hacking” into the human DNA chain to cure the sick, heal the lame and pretty much do anything else you might desire. Upon hearing Killian’s pitch, Pepper notes that the technology sounds like it could easily be weaponized. She doesn’t know the half of it.

As an A-list screenwriter in the ’80s and ’90s, Black practically defined a certain brand of sardonic Hollywood action spectacle (his credits include “Lethal Weapon,” “The Last Boy Scout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”), then disappeared for most of the 2000s, surfacing briefly in 2005 with his directorial debut, the self-referential neo-noir “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (which featured Downey in a crucial comeback role). “Iron Man 3” reps a huge step up in terms of scale, and Black largely acquits himself well, keeping the pace brisk, deploying a couple of modest surprises and staging a few undeniably impressive, super-sized setpieces. Among them: an end-of-first-act raid that reduces Stark’s swank Malibu pad to smithereens, and a mid-film, mid-air rescue that draws upon some truly spectacular skydiving acrobatics.

SEE ALSO: ‘Iron Man 3’ Premieres in Hollywood (Photos)

The entire package is never less than professional, enhanced by ace tech contributions from cinematographer John Toll, production designer Bill Brzeski (replacing the late J. Michael Riva, who designed the first two films) and editors Jeffrey Ford and Peter S. Elliot. Yet the movie suffers from separating Downey from three of his best verbal sparring partners ― Favreau, Paltrow and Paul Bettany (as the voice of the uber-computer Jarvis) ― for much of the pic’s running time. And from top to bottom, Favreau’s handcrafted touch is conspicuously absent, particularly his affection for retro, Ray Harryhausen-esque visual effects. (This is by far the most digital-looking series entry.) Perhaps fittingly for a movie that introduces a new generation of remote-guided Iron Man suits, “Iron Man 3” all too often feels as if it were assembled by a machine.

Though advertised as “Iron Man 3” in all promotional materials, the pic’s full onscreen title reads as “Iron Man Three.”

Film Review: 'Iron Man 3'

Reviewed at AMC Loews Lincoln Square, New York, April 24, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 130 MIN.


A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Marvel Studios presentation in association with Paramount Pictures and DMG Entertainment of a Marvel Studios production. Produced by Kevin Fiege. Executive produces, Jon Favreau, Louis D’Esposito, Charles Newirth, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Dan Mintz.


Directed by Shane Black. Screenplay, Drew Pearce, Black, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee, Bill Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby. Camera (Technicolor, widescreen, HD), John Toll; editors, Jeffrey Ford, Peter S. Elliot; music, Brian Tyler; music supervisor, Dave Jordan; production designer, Bill Brzeski; supervising art director, Desma Murphy; art director, Jay Pelissier, Alan Hook, Brian Stultz; set decorator, Danielle Berman; costume designer, Louise Frogley; sound (Dolby Digital/Dolby Atmos/Datasat), Jose Antonio Garcia, Peter Devlin; supervising sound editor, Mark P. Stoeckinger; re-recording mixers, Mike Prestwood Smith, Michael Keller; visual effects supervisor, Christopher Townsend; visual effects, Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Scanline VFX, Trixter, Framestore, Method Studios, Cinesite Limited, Cantina Creative, Prologue, Fuel VFX, Luma Pictures, the Embassy, Capital T, Lola, Rise FX; stunt coordinators, Markos Rounthwaite, Jeff Habberstad; assistant director, Lars P. Winther; second unit director, Brian Smrz; casting, Sarah Halley Finn.


Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Broussard, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Miguel Ferrer, Paul Bettany.

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  1. Jamie says:

    I went 2 c it Friday and was very disappointed. And any real iron man comic fan would b and should b. they should of just called it tony stark! Iron man was hardly in the movie! And when he was he was getting his ass kicked! I was really looking forward in seeing his number 1 villain of all time. Then I find out he wasn’t even a real villain in the movie? Just a fake? That’s when the movie got worse 2 as it went on. How can marvel let down the true comic fans by making the mandrian fake?! Why?! He would of been a great villain 4 the movie but nooo! They had 2 screw it up. And who was these people with the burning things or what ever they where? There not even in the comics! At lease have a original villain! I hope there’s another one because that was the worse iron man of the three. U give it a 5 out of 10 and that’s only Robert Downey played a good role. Very disappointed. :(

  2. JonieJetsens says:

    Sabrina…if you need a job try this site JOBK3 com. My aunt makes $18.50 hourly just sitting and typing crap all day. And you dont need experience.

  3. harold hill says:

    I was disappointed by the movie. They really hyped it up and the previous movies were good but this was a flop. They really should have kept the movie within the same action, plot and excitement level as the previous ones. This movie was boring at times, not well written and I believe lost the Tony Stark unique personality. This Iron Man was not worth seeing. Just watch the trailers and save yourself a bunch of money.

  4. Gregory Bland says:

    The movie was good not great. The fact the iron man suit can fly through the air in little pieces and reconstruct itself on Toney was to far fetched. Should have taken a step back here really, just left it as the whole suit flying to him in one piece so he could climb in is much more believable. Crashed in burned with the Mandrian; missed opportunity with building a good villian. Seems like they took a civilian off the shelf of a James Bond movie.

  5. RastaBlaster says:

    My 6 year old son summed up Iron man 3 well, he said ‘it was good, when it wasn’t boring’.

  6. psycho says:

    Don’t waste your time.

  7. Jim says:

    Digesting this over the last few days and reading the interviews to discern the “thought” process of what went into IM3, bottom-line: after the success of the Avengers they decided to be “relevant” instead of entertaining and they wound up with crap. The problem is from what I read this is “thought” process will continue through to Avengers 2. But they’ll ride the momentum and make another billion plus. To see such potential go to waste is maddening.

  8. Joe says:

    Well if your a fan of cartoon or comics Mandarin is not even worth puting in this movie. No rings? No magic power? Was a waste of evening puting him this movie. Should of went with Hulk out of control and Iron Man using his Hulk-Buster armor to stop him.

  9. hector says:

    You critics and idiots have irrelevant reasons to say why tye movie isnt good. Just because it didnt go the way you wanted it. Well you faggots are nothing but haters. This is a great movie and variety is just mad no one reads their corny overrated reveiws you guys are played out just like the 40 year old virgin haters that follow you

    • John says:

      Why all of the hate hector? The review sounds mostly positive to me. I enjoyed the movie, but it is in no way perfect. I’d probably give it a 7.5 or 8 out of 10.

  10. Paul says:

    Just saw IM3 and I must say it was extremely disappointing. I grew up reading the comics as a teen in the 70’s and to portray Mandarin as a joke is a massive “screw up”. In my opinion Shane Black, whose movies are mediocre – at best – pulled the entire Marvel franchise down a notch. The entire revival of the Marvel movies was hinged upon IM, and it just dropped in stature. I want to see action as the #1 thing in these types of movies with character development as a subplot. It worked in the first two!!!! Just very disappointing. All of the posts that state they love the more developed character plot with less action and not true to Marvel universe story lines – if you truly want to watch a show that is touchy-feely – stay home and watch Terms of Endearment. The majority of fans – particularly Marvel fans that grew up with the original comic stories/characters – want to relax and get away from everyday life by watching an action packed blockbuster.

    • hector says:

      How about you shut the fuck up you pussy

      • jmont says:

        dumb gang banger wannabee beaner. social parasite “Hector” that gives all decent Mexicans a bad name. You dont know the guy your trashing, but we can pretty much pin you down in a new york minute by the fact you cannot take any critique of your precious movie you had nothing to do with as well.

  11. Jim says:

    “…from top to bottom, Favreau’s handcrafted touch is conspicuously absent…” this is without a doubt the core of the many problems with this film. Starting with the not so subtle smack in the face that terrorists are essentially boogeymen of our own creation is exceptionally painful in light of the murder of eight-year-old Martin Richard by jihadist in Boston.

    The Ten Rings wonton lust for blood and conquest failed to appear anywhere. Why? Can we no longer depict the almost daily carnage of jihadist anymore? I see plenty of it in the headlines. Iron Man was successful because it took the original story and simple placed it in present day. Shane Black clearly lacks any attachment to this concept.

    And the ingenuity of Stark is now a liability literally a weight he winds up dragging through the snow(by the way who in their right mind would believe Stark would NOT be prepared for an attack, short of a nuke, at his base of operations, he is a genius after all)

    The character of the Mandarin and the absolute malevolent portrayal by Ben Kingsley were wasted. There could have been so much that could have been done with this legendary conflict between he and Stark but this was (and will always be) “Shane’s Iron Man”, a pale imitation of “…Favreau’s handcrafted…” creations that preceded and that were so well integrated successfully into Whedon’s Avengers.

    • hector says:

      Jim your a fucking idiot. You took your time to write all of this. And yet your still at home being an anti social virgin that has nothing better to do then critic a movie that you have no part of. Your just mad this movie is actually a success unlike you. Jealous faggot

      • Kari says:

        And you have nothing better to do than to rudely critique other people’s well thought out opinions on the movie? Who is the true person who doesn’t have time on their hands. You sound like a typical internet “Troll” to me. And where do trolls live? Probably in a hole somewhere. I’m also assuming you are very young. Probably a child who uses the internet as a way to hide behind a mask to make unnecessary remarks to other people. You’re probably bullied or don’t have many friends (or many good friends). Maybe you have a rough life. You would probably only reply to this with more hatefulness but you should realize this is not the right thing to do. You need to realize this is not how you for meaningful bonds with anyone or how you treat other people.

        I would also have to agree with Jim and many other posters. Iron Man 3 was good to watch but it just didnt feel like I was watching an Iron Man movie. It is because they changed directors and that can really change the total feel of a movie. In this case it was no for the best.

      • jmont says:

        “Hector” you just angry because you are actually the anti social idiotic loser you accuse others of being. so mad people dont blindly love your precious movie, aww cant take it you lame fanboy. stay home and beat off to your iron man poster again Hector

      • jmont says:

        shut up and go back to Mexico beaner

  12. Joshua says:

    I’m a bit upset with the twist but about maybe 45 minutes in I started to figure it out. That said it was a good movie.

  13. Cliffhanger77 says:

    Sorry, but IM3 is the BEST Iron Man by far, @Max and other haters. The comic-book fanboys (hint – learn to spell, you guys — you’ll get your points across more effectively) are all in a tizz over the changes in Mandarin. You know what – Mandarin in the comic books was a racist yellow-peril stereotype of the worst sort. Kudos to the filmmakers for changing him brilliantly (and who could play him better than Ben Kingsley?) and for the surprises that are in store for filmgoers in this movie.

    I loved it, and although I would watch Downey in anything, I have always found his Tony Stark portrayal to be one of his most layered and compelling roles. It’s too bad that some critics (and the Oscars) tend to downplay actors in “comic book movies” as somehow having “lesser” or less challenging roles than those who play protagonists in small critical-darling dramas. Downey’s Tony Stark and the Bruce Wayne of the Dark Knight movies are titanic, multi-layered roles and deserve critical acclaim and award nominations.

    Sorry, fanboys – I don’t want to see yet another Iron Man with guys in iron suits clanking around and bashing each other — that does not appeal. I prefer the exploration of Tony’s personal flaws that we get in IM3 – and the sort of real heroism that comes from rising above human challenges and finding the strength inside to go on. IM3 delivers that AND a slam-bang storyline — thank you to all involved in creating it!!

    • Jim says:


    • ericdpitts says:

      WoW you must be great to have around 300. IFit were real IT wouldint be so great but its somebodys interpitation of a great story. zerczes wasent to fonny now was he. ooo well im drunk and going to sleep but they could have done lot better i think stick to some comic boooook truth soo kids can ask qustions and ill know what the fuck there talking about too much fucking change yes the manderin is not a pot head boy HAHAHA

    • ericdpitts says:

      downy is great but im not looking for clean clothes. im looking for a more clean to the facts story of comic book leagend that illistrates comic book greatness. not comic releaf through the untrue vision of someone else. Thats why its not the same as we know to be great witch is IRON MAN not a new version!!!!

  14. Max says:

    The worst Iron man by far yes you heard me, Shane Black want’s this to be Lethal Weapon 2 and a half with downey running around shooting guns, it’s outrages that he was allowed to work on this project, i’ll take Iron man 2 over this crap anyday.
    Yep they’ve pulled another spidey 3
    way to go fuck it all up for the fans dickheads

  15. ericdpitts says:

    iI they dont even know that the madarin is a powerful true villan from the comic books. not a fake they should let somebody who duz ha ha. i cant belive marvel let them release it sad truly sad!!!

  16. Shazzer says:

    Didnt hurt that the studio also payed People magazine for Gwyneth to be named “Most Disgusting (I mean) Beautiful Woman” to hype it either.

  17. Jigar Doshi says:

    My review of the movie Iron Man 3 : robert impresses yet again.

  18. Definitely agree that the film is solid in terms of action and Downey Jr’s performance, the motivations of the villains felt incredibly underwhelming.

    In our review, we also take issue with how little dramatic impact the identity issues (stemming from The Avengers fall-out) has. It feels like they go back to it repeatedly but it never really amounts to anything. It’s like an anchor around the film’s neck each time it comes up.

  19. Phil says:

    I am a fan of Iron Man, but not a fan of “3” Shane Black has made Iron Man as soft as Tin Cans… Since when do we remember that when a truck hit iron man… It break into pieces?? And the rocket attack…what??? The armor wasnt even hit directly and it blew like a fire works?? Shame Shame Shame thats the “3” that i will remember.

  20. Kike says:

    Mandarin is the first enemy of iron man, his personality is like a guru, genghis khan, like rah’s al guhl, but the director put this character like a clown and compare to bin laden, mandarin is from china, the rings is better than the weapon of aldrich, is for people who didn’t know about comic, fans comics, we born with 60 series, this movie has many parts but nothing with esence.

  21. See Hui Chyr says:

    Big disappointment in the movie. IF you are a true comic buff, u’ll know what I mean. Not gonna reveal it here ‘coz it’ll be a spoiler.

  22. Tom says:

    I didn’t realize that “Iron Man 3” and “Iron Man Three” were different things.

  23. Mark says:

    Man…if you don’t want to write, don’t. If you have seen all three movies, you will have to be able to say that it was far out the best of the three. This is one fun, action filled Layer Cake. Yes it has more ‘silly’ fun in it than any of the previous. But I can say for sure (having seen almost all Marvel movies, except for Thor), Iron Man has been the best comic-movie translation and this iteration has surpassed it. Perhaps it is due to nationality some like it or not. Likely age has to do with it. I grew up with the Iron Man from Jim Lee, Romita Jr. and John Byrne, not the recent reruns. I can say: This is the first movie that got a full and crowded cinema with all nationalities and ages laughing and feeling (‘watch the speed’, ‘Not the face again’) more than 5 times on a Marvel action movie.
    So, No, this is for sure not the worse. If anybody wants to explain which Marvel movie is better (and why), please, by all means!

    • ENOCH ALLEN says:

      When talking about the greatest comic book films Spiderman 2 always gets neglected. For my money Spidey 2 is also one of Sam Raimi’s career best movies.

  24. Iron Man says:

    how much spoilers, man! i don`t like it at all.

  25. HBKRULES says:

    By far the worst Iron man film infact worst marvel film since electra and dare devil a total disapointment to true marvel comic fans.

  26. Rory says:

    I’m hoping the Madarin being in cahoots with Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce’s characters is revealed early and not a third act revelation that you’ve now ruined for everyone.

    • Scott Foundas says:

      Less than 30 minutes in. Rest easy. The “surprise” about The Mandarin is not revealed in this review.

  27. odum says:

    Hmm. Nice name-drop on the “Ray Harryhausen-esque visual”s, but even in my broadest imaginative calisthenics, I can’t imagine what you mean or how such a description fits or applies in any way. Clearly you don’t mean the tech, so you must mean – I dunno – the framing? Even then, I see no points of comparison at all. Could you elaborate?

    • Scott Foundas says:

      I think you can find Harryhausen references in nearly all of Favreau’s movies, most explicitly in “Elf” and the little-seen but very charming “Zathura,” but also in the “Iron Man” films. Case in point: Justin Hammer’s drone army attacking the expo at the end of “Iron Man 2” has a distinctly “Jason and the Argonauts” vibe about it. Also, the general attention paid to making sure the effects, even when computer-generated, maintained a physical, tactile presence in the scenes. One could also mention one of Harryhausen’s great disciples, Phil Tippet, whose extraordinary work on the original “Star Wars” and “Robocop” films can be seen as another influence on Favreau.

      • odum says:

        Okay. I can kinda see all that. Not sure I’m with you, but I’m not scratching my head anymore. Thanks.

  28. George Valentin says:

    I’m wondering how good the 3D effects are in “Iron Man Three.”

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