Movie Review: Iron Man 3

By Matthew Huntley

May 8, 2013

Just chillin'.

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As far as superhero alter egos go, Tony Stark has always been one of the more closely guarded. Sure, the first two Iron Man movies and Marvel’s The Avengers distinguished him as a wise-cracking, overconfident playboy-genius, with an insatiable thirst for danger and excitement, but his organic, vulnerable side has mostly gone unexplored. That’s ironic, seeing as though it was his physical susceptibility that turned him into Iron Man in the first place. But one of the ambitions of Iron Man 3 is to demystify Stark’s celebrity-like persona and allow us to see him as someone who’s not emotionally empty or invincible. In other words, he’s a human being.

This side of Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is examined early on in Iron Man 3 when he tells us everyone has demons, some of which are the products of our own minds and others that are real people who wish us harm. Like most people, especially superheroes, Stark has both. Ever since the New York event in The Avengers, in which Stark witnessed overwhelming destruction, a wormhole to another dimension, and a race of giant, mechanized aliens, among other things, he tells his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), “things haven’t been the same.” Would they be for anyone?

These days, Stark can’t sleep and he experiences severe anxiety attacks, which almost get Pepper killed in the middle of the night. It sounds strange to say so, but the anxiety attack scenes are so real and convincing they practically raise the movie to another level. Don’t get me wrong; this is still a superhero movie in the traditional sense, but its human condition moments put it above most. For the first time, we see Tony Stark as one of us, and that makes Iron Man 3 all the more absorbing. It approaches the brink of Spider-Man 2 and the recent Batman movies, which many would agree have set the standard for “super hero movie excellence.” This is all the more impressive given this is the third, or perhaps fourth, film in the franchise. At this point, they usually wear thin.


Stark has been channeling his restlessness into engineering a series of new Iron Man prototypes in his palatial Malibu home, including a version that lets him control the suit remotely by injecting his arm with sensors, which I assume are tied to his nerves, and perhaps his mind. At first, his latest experiment backfires, but you can be sure it will play an essential role later on.

Along with his insomnia and mental angst, the other demon in Stark’s life comes in the form of Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a once-crippled scientist whom Stark never gave time of day back in Switzerland in 1999, when Aldrich asked him to join his company, Advanced Idea Mechanics. Stark also never gave more than a one-night stand to Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), the scientist behind Extremis, a medicine that restores degenerative tissue. Essentially, she’s found a way to manipulate a living organism’s DNA source code.

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