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Countdown to Civil War: Iron Man 3 (2013) – Underwhelming Conclusion to a Trilogy

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As Captain America: Civil War draws closer, we look at the start of phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man 3, the final standalone Iron Man film (for now) for Robert Downey, Jr.

Iron Man 3 takes place shortly after the events of The Avengers with Tony Stark (Downey) suffering from PTSD following the Battle of New York nearly sacrificing himself to deliver the killing blow to the Chitauri fleet. To cope with his condition, Tony continuously builds Iron Man suits to combat any future threats much to his assistant-turned CEO of Stark Industries and girlfriend, Pepper Potts’ (Gwyneth Paltrow) dismay.

Iron Man 3 (2013) - Robert Downey, Jr.
Iron Man 3 (2013) – Robert Downey, Jr.

There’s no rest for the weary as a terrorist organization led by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) strikes in what appears to be a suicide bomb attack triggered by Extremis. The blast catches Stark’s security chief and best friend, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Happy survives, which the enraged Tony issues a public response and taunts the Mandarin and revealing where his home is.

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Naturally, the Mandarin’s forces come to Tony’s home in an attempt to take him out. As they narrowly escape, Tony finds out more about Extremis from the assassins sent to kill him. The Extremis is linked to a scientist he once spurned in Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

At least, this time, the film’s villain doesn’t build a giant robot to kill the protagonist. The film also gives Pepper more to do aside from being the damsel and basic auxiliary character. War Machine (Don Cheadle) gets an “upgrade” as the Iron Patriot. The black and silver have been replaced by red, white and blue. Rhodey doesn’t add much to the story this time except at the end where the president (William Sadler) is in the suit used to lure Tony. Given how much beating the Iron Man suits take throughout the films, there’s a bit of a suspension of disbelief how easily the Extremis soldiers tear through them like tissue paper.

Iron Man Force - Assemble!
Iron Man Force – Assemble!

If you’ve seen The Incredibles, you pretty much know how this film turns out.

Shane Black takes over directing duties from Favreau, and he also shares screenwriting duties with Drew Pearce. Black has prior experience with RDJ writing and directing him in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

RDJ’s performance is pretty standard for him, but he does an excellent job conveying regret and trauma while never losing his charismatic edge. Paltrow is also allowed to show more given how much more important Pepper is to the film. Kingsley and Pearce turn in decent performances convincingly and ruthlessly.

The ending while poetic makes zero sense given Tony’s involvement in future MCU films. You do get the sense they feel they reached the creative apex of the Iron Man universe as they do play up how war-weary Tony is and how much his past is constantly haunting him.

I believe there is more to do with the character beyond Civil War and The Avengers: Infinity Wars. We got teased Pepper’s alter ego with Rescue, even though Tony willed one of his Iron Man suits to her. There’s still a rogues gallery of villains Iron Man can still face. Should they make another standalone, who else do you think he should face? Is there anyone who can step in RDJ’s shoes?

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Tom Chang
Sci-fi and technology geek since the NES days, Tom loves everything from the cult classics, the contemporary hits to the beast with two backs that is Disney and Marvel. His life's mission is to be the ultimate nerd savant sitting on the iron throne as CEO of Skynet while masquerading as a vigilante at night wearing hockey pads.
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