After the events in The Avengers it's a more uncertain and weakened Tony Stark that we see in Iron Man 3. The arrogance is still there but it's tempered with fear of the future and what the great unknown might bring back to Earth. His fear of keeping his lady love Pepper Potts safe has him up nights making The Suit even better. Needless to say, sleepless nights equals a Tony showing some serious moments of anxiety which make him all the more human and demonstrates that he IS NOT Iron Man, at least not entirely.
After its explosive opening salvo we're given a flashback montage of Tony's earlier wilder days (with a recognizable face or two that made me go aaawwwwwww) and his knowledge of some important medical research which brings us back to the now and a madman named The Mandarin, who's holding the world hostage through random bombings and overall fear. His actions are a smokescreen to something even bigger and it's up to Tony to figure out what it is. With The Suit out of the picture for a period of time Tony must rely on his mind and the creativeness that made him a millionaire. Being stuck in small town America he enlists the help of a young boy named Harley, who he sees a lot of himself in, and together they gain even more vital information into the military's part in the bombings and who's really behind it all. The interactions between these two was delightfully playful and had me thinking how great a father Tony would be. I'm usually annoyed by children but found him an admirable sidekick.
In the previous movies, Pepper was the damsel in distress, but I'm happy to report she kicked some serious butt in this movie. I liked seeing the duality of businesswoman Pepper and the woman who saves Tony. There's a newfound respect from her in regards to the necessity of putting your life on the line and I think it brings them closer together. After an uneasy transition to Don Cheadle portraying Rhodes in the previous film, I found him to be much more comfortable in the part. He and Tony had enjoyable verbal bantering and he had a more commanding presence in the War Machine armor.
The Mandarin seems a formidable villain and, played by Ben Kingsley, he brings unexpected humor to his villainous persona. As the movie progresses though we find out that there's a bigger, more scarier, player behind the scenes. He's using medical technology to change people and make them invincible and he's a worthy opponent in a battle against Iron Man. This final battle unleashes some very intense special effects. It's like 4th of July has been unleashed on the screen and it only gets more exciting as a surprising army comes to aid Tony in his fight to save Pepper, the President, and the world.
After a disappointing second movie, I found this one a return to form. The humor was back, the villain was a worthy adversary who had a cleverly nefarious plan, and Tony again showed emotional character growth. He was brought low in this movie and rose heroically from the ashes. I see that for true comic book afficonados this movie was a disappointment, but as a person unfamiliar with the comic book origins I found this an intriguing twisting and turning story with delightful verbal sparring and edge of your seat action. The acting was well-done all around with a special shout out to Ben Kingsley who really isn't what you expect him to be. Guy Pearce, who plays Killian, also shows a dramatically different side as he starts the film in full geek mode and transforms into cover model handsome while showing a deceptively malicious side. The returning main couple of Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. have their characters down pat. There's a connection between the two that can't be broken no matter what befalls them. With Tony making a surprising choice at the end it will be interesting to see where he and Iron Man go next. As usual with Marvel movies, make sure to stay until after the credits for a hilarious scene between Tony and Dr. David Banner!
**********My rating for this is an A**********