The 400-Word Review: Iron Man 3

By Sean Collier

May 3, 2013

I'm still haunted by the time I was awakened suddenly and forcefully by an angry green dude.

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Now that Marvel’s Avengers have fully assembled for one all-star blowout, the ambitious franchise faces an unprecedented challenge — returning to business as usual.

We were told, over five years, that Marvel’s output — uh, except for anything dealing with Spider-Man, the X-Men or various other minor properties — was building to The Avengers, a superhero spectacular to tie every crusader worth their salt into one storyline. It arrived, it was epic, everyone cheered.

And then...we continue, apparently.

If you believe Wikipedia — which, in the world of movie news, might be as prescient a source as any — we now embark on Phase Two. To my knowledge, no other major cinematic endeavors have been structured like real estate developments, but Marvel will change that; this week’s Iron Man 3 will be followed by the continuing adventures of Captain America and Thor, as well as the intrusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, before The Avengers 2 kickstarts the summer 2015 movie season.

Don’t worry, though — Phase 3 will begin thereafter, thanks to Ant-Man. (Ant-Man!)


That’s all to say that Iron Man 3 is tasked with scaling things back from last year’s blowout into individual stories. As a standalone film, it does fine; it resurrects the charm of the original Iron Man, with a more conflicted Tony Stark. The playboy is suffering from PTSD after the Avengers stuff, but overcomes it to battle a new threat in the form of Ben Kingsley’s mysterious terrorist, The Mandarin.

As it should be, Iron Man 3 is by turns thrilling and funny. It’s an engaging technological display, and (with the exception of the usual completely unnecessary 3D) it looks great. Gwyneth Paltrow, as Stark’s love interest Pepper Potts, remains a horrible drain on the franchise, but she’s the film’s only real weak point. (Unfortunately, she is featured prominently.)

So the only way to be disappointed by Iron Man 3 is to think about The Avengers. Compared to that epic, this film delves into the series’ mythology so sporadically that it feels something is missing; intrusions by other characters are minimal, and it’s unclear what growing threat will warrant an Avengers 2.

Fortunately, Iron Man is an engaging enough character — and Robert Downey Jr. a charming enough performer — that the hurdle is overcome, and Iron Man 3 succeeds completely.

I’m not sure any of this bears well for Ant-Man, though.

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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