Saturday, May 18, 2013

Iron Man 3: More of What We Love

** Contains spoilers for Iron Man 3, the previous Iron Man movies, and The Avengers **
If you're anything like me, then the main reason you went and saw Iron Man 3 was to see Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow return to their roles as Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. It helps that there was plenty of action, a brisk pace, and humor, but that was just an added bonus. As the third film in the series, and the fourth to feature these characters, the characters we see in Iron Man 3 have grown and changed since we first met them. Tony Stark became a hero in the past movies, but now his decisions are catching up to him and he has to deal with the consequences.

Tony Stark never set out to be a hero. He built a suit of armor to escape from terrorists and prolong his own life. The villains that he faced in the first two Iron Man movies had personal vendettas against him. They sought him out, rather than him going out to face them because it was the right thing to do. It wasn't until The Avengers that Tony was asked to fight for something, rather than just fighting against something. When he did, he fought enemies that were on a different scale than anything he had faced before, and he nearly lost his life. Though he fought alongside a god and scientifically enhanced men, he was a normal man whose armor was only as good as his mind and resources could make it.

The third Iron Man movie explores Stark's attempts to cope with that realization. At first, he tries to avoid the issue, building more and more suits of armor in a clearly symbolic attempt to protect himself. He has anxiety attacks when people mention the events of The Avengers. Things get worse until, caught in a nightmare, he subconsciously makes one of his suits of armor grab Pepper, clearly illustrating how the armor he has built for himself is hurting the people he loves. Tony has to deal with the problem when his suit lands in the middle of a snowy field, out of power. He has to drag the armor to a shed to repair and recharge it. The armor has become an anchor weighing him down.

But for all that introspection, it wouldn't be a good superhero movie without some villains to face in over-the-top battles. Most of the villains in Iron Man 3 can regenerate from nearly any injury and have fire-based powers, apparently due to their supercharged metabolisms. It doesn't make much sense, but don't think about it too hard. It leads to some cool fight scenes and interesting special effects. Nobody shrinks or grows and nobody flies, so in my book, the villains in Iron Man 3 are still not too implausible. I also enjoyed Ben Kingsley's Mandarin, who isn't exactly what he seems.

I've always liked the relationship between Tony and Pepper in these movies, and Iron Man 3 gives us even more of Pepper. She gets to wear the Iron Man armor in a great scene where Tony realizes that he has put her in danger by trying to prove to himself that he can protect her. Pepper, in turn, learns the responsibility that comes with being the person in the armor. Later, Pepper proves that she's not a damsel in distress, and any bad guy who tries to kidnap her had better watch out.

It wouldn't be an Iron Man movie without both Pepper and Rhodey, and so Rhodes is back, too. While he doesn't have much to do in the first half, he makes up for that in the second half. His place in the first half seems to be taken up by 'Happy' Hogan, (played by Jon Favreau, who directed the first two movies). When it's Rhodes' turn in the spotlight, he proves that he doesn't need heavy armor to kick butt. That seems to be one of the themes of the movie: there's more to these heroes than their armor.

All in all, I would say that Iron Man 3 makes a very satisfying entry in the growing list of Marvel movies. There seems to be some doubt as to how many more times we'll see Robert Downey, Jr., don the red-and-gold armor, but as long as he does, you can bet I'll keep buying movie tickets.

What did you think of Iron Man 3? And what do you think is next for Tony and Pepper?

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