The end of a movie trilogy has always been looked upon in the same way a fly looks at a piece of cow shit. You know one is going to be drawn to the other. You can't avoid it. The best you can do is hold your nose and hope that the fumes don't incur too much brain damage. Some call it the Godfather 3 syndrome. I call it overpaid movie types spending too much money on blow and not enough on making sure the damn story actually works. I'm not against Hollywood types doing blow. Hell, TMZ would go out of business if it stopped. But there's a little something us functioning crack heads called moderation and it pays off if you're not a complete fucking retard.
That brings us to Iron Man 3, the first movie in Marvel's Phase Two segment of its movies and the last in the trilogy that kicked off Phase One. Iron Man was in many ways the movie that set the standard for Marvel movies. It didn't just turn Robert Downey Jr. from a recovering coke head to a massive superstar. It showed that comic book movies can be both awesome, profitable, and entertaining. It did for Marvel what the internet did for porn. It created an exciting new medium for awesome that soaked the panties of a generation of comic fans.
Yet it's because these movies were so good that the third sequel was in great danger of burning out. When the bar is raised so high, it's only natural that someone ends up hitting their or flat out choking to death (see X3). Even when they don't choke, threequels can be so sub-par that they can taint the whole trilogy (again, see X3). So the stakes for Iron Man 3 couldn't be higher. But I'm both happy and drunk to report that this is not the case.
|That's right. It was all uphill from here.|
Let's start with the premise. Iron Man 3 took one of the most recognizable Iron Man villains, the Mandarin, and one of the best Iron Man stories from the comics, Extremis, as source material. That would be like X3 using Apocalypse and NOT fucking up the Phoenix Saga. But it's not just the source material that is rich in awesome. The events of Avengers have left an indelible mark on Tony Stark. Apparently, flying a nuclear bomb into a wormhole has a way of fucking some people up. He's basically a wreck now, suffering from the same post traumatic stress disorder that most anyone would suffer from if they went through something so fucked up. He can't sleep. He's drowning himself in work. And he's doing a shitty job of keeping his girlfriend/partner, Pepper Potts, happy. Then again, I guess when you're Gweneth Paltrow and you're the most hated, pompous celebrity in Hollywood, that's not much of a stretch.
But the world after the events of Avengers has also been fucked up. I mean what do you do when you've been invaded by aliens and gods? Well one organization seems to know what to do. You fucking profit from that shit! It's insane how realistic that sounds, but that's exactly what the Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM as any self-respecting Marvel fan would know, plan to do. And that's where the Mandarin comes in. He's basically Bin Ladin, Khadafi, and Kim Jong Ill with better sunglasses and a beard. He also may be one of the most racist character you'll ever come across in the comics, but he's basically this evil guy with an Asian-sounding name who wants to destroy America. Why? Because fuck America, that's why! That's what it pretty much boils down to in the comics.
|Yep. Nothing raised about this.|
Throughout Iron Man 3, nothing is quite as it seems. It's hard to tell just what forces are at work at times, but unlike other movies that try to throw too many curve-balls that end up missing the plate and hitting the batter in the balls, those forces do get revealed. It helps create a bigger picture throughout the movie that actually sends a message that doesn't just involve the benefits of sending high tech robots to kill other high tech robots. It gives the sense that the world within the world is an act. People will manipulate the fears and outrage of the masses to accomplish a goal. Even when that goal is as basic as making money, the sheer breadth of it speaks to the depths of both greed and the need for control.
This is where AIM comes in. They are, in many ways, the ultimate villain of the modern era. They are not some blood-thirsty foreign army or some rogue terrorist group. It isn't enough for them to just make fancy shit that they can sell to people that are eager to blow shit up. They need to control both the supply and the demand of war. That's where Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen come in. Aldrich is the leader of AIM and Maya is a chick Tony boned in the past who came up with Extremis, proving once again that most of the evil in the world can be traced back to ex-girlfriends. They seek to use Extremis, a bold new drug that started simply as a means of enhancing the human body and helping wounded war veterans heal, as the ultimate weapon of war. It's devious, but not unrealistic. You have to think that the guys at Fox News and the Vatican have entertained some plans like this at one point.
It all comes back to Tony Stark, but in this movie he can't just beat this threat by making a better Iron Man. In fact, for most of this movie he's either not in his Iron Man suit or he's using a suit that has been badly damaged. Early on in the movie, his instability and his arrogance get the better of him. His house blows up. His girlfriend gets abducted. Jarvis goes off line. And he's basically stuck in some random town in the middle of Tennessee (the part without Elvis impersonators) trying to piece everything together. He essentially has to rebuild himself and not just Iron Man. And that's part of what makes the story itself compelling. He's a badly wounded guy with serious anxiety issues trying t pull himself together. All the while, he's still the same lovable prick. Only a guy like Robert Downy Jr. can pull that shit off and make it so entertaining.
In the end, this battle comes to a very definitive and very satisfying conclusion. It's made clear that the suit is not the only thing that makes Iron Man who he is. Tony Stark and Iron Man are one in the same. Take away the suit and the house and he's still Iron Man. Stick him in the middle of nowhere and force him to team up with some random kid and he's still Iron Man. Take away that glowing chest plate and he's still Iron man. That's the main message of this movie and it delivers that message perfectly.
|You'll never be this awesome. Ever.|
Overall, nobody is going to put Iron Man 3 above Avengers. It's just not as epic. It can't be as epic by default. But if ever there was a template with which to effectively close out a trilogy, this would be it. This movie gets to the essence of who Iron Man is and doesn't try to do anything overly radical with it. It just takes some of the best elements that make Iron Man who he is and runs with it. For that, I give Iron Man 3 an emphatic 5 out of 4.5. It's a satisfying movie to complete a satisfying trilogy. It may not make you think Gweneth Paltrow is any less annoying, but it will make you love Robert Downy Jr. and it will make you love Iron Man. Now excuse me while I go give the finger to every other threequal that sucked. Nuff said!