Review: “Iron Man 3” puts focus on Tony Stark, not the suit, with twists taking the series in an unexpected direction

in Disney, Marvel, Movies, Reviews

The smash success of “Marvel’s The Avengers” is a tough act to follow, even for the entirely self-absorbed, but always charming Tony Stark – a.k.a. Iron Man. After an alien invasion brought Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye together with Iron Man in an epic battle spanning New York City that earned more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office, it’s no wonder “Iron Man 3” takes a step back from that chaos to focus more on the personal story behind its titular superhero.

Already playing in international markets, “Iron Man 3” debuts in the United States this weekend and is expected to draw tremendous numbers with fans eager to find out where the story goes as Disney and Marvel enter “Phase 2” of their “Avengers” series. But moviegoers shouldn’t expect quite the same adventure as the first two “Iron Man” films.

Instead, “Iron Man 3” offers a more personal look at billionaire Tony Stark, once again perfectly played by Robert Downey Jr. This time around, the film largely sheds the famous red-and-gold metal suit in favor of focusing on how Stark is dealing with life following that alien attack. Having come in close contact with beings – even gods – from another galaxy, Stark is forced to figure out, and struggle with finding, his true place in life. And his early years return to haunt him in a big way.

“Iron Man 3” isn’t packed with a series of battles against super villains. The Mandarin does pose a serious threat to the safety of United States citizens, Stark included, but through a series of surprise events and plot twists, the film follows an unusual path that leads its main characters through a journey of self discovery, all the while fighting off baddies almost as a second thought.

For those who have followed Marvel’s comics for decades, this will be a polarizing film. It will surely bring huge box office results, but not everyone will leave feeling entirely satisfied. Those wanting to get to know Tony Stark, the man, will appreciate the closer look at his life, especially his relationship with Pepper Potts who is definitely given her chance to shine in this new film, with more exciting screen time for Gwyneth Paltrow than in the first two “Iron Man” films combined.

But to keep some of the film’s best surprises secret until showtime, it’s recommended to stop watching “Iron Man 3” trailers immediately and forget everything that’s already been seen. Many, maybe even most, of the movie’s captivating moments are already revealed in the series of teasers and trailers Disney and Marvel have released, leaving very little new for the moviegoer, short of one or two major twists.

Though a direct sequel to “Marvel’s The Avengers” is already planned, “Iron Man 3” is the first chance fans have to revisit that universe since the events that transpired in that blockbuster and the new film picks up right where the story left off. With many references to that big New York battle, “Iron Man 3” sets the stage for “Thor: The Dark World” in November and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in less than a year. And as with every film in the “Avengers” series, a post-credits scene continues to interweave the stories that cross between these big budget films.

If viewed as a new introduction, “Iron Man 3” works. But on its own, anyone who enjoyed the nearly non-stop excitement of “Marvel’s The Avengers” will find a very different, and possibly disappointing, kind of movie here.

And to 3D or not 3D? Go for 3D. The depth is fantastic, even in two-person dialogue scenes, but even more so amidst falling debris, ashes, and snow filled scenes.

“Iron Man 3” opens in U.S. theaters today, May 3, 2013.

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