Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is in the middle of a panic of sorts. He is suffering what most would call a crisis of confidence. The Avengers left Stark with a distinct impression that there are, in fact, things he cannot control. The suit won't always be around and Tony has loved ones who are exposed. With Rhodes (Don Cheadle) piloting around the world as Iron Patriot, and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, getting her best part yet in the series) running Star Industries, Tony is firmly set in his R&D lab trying to figure out how to keep them all safe.
In the isolation of his fortress, the global reign of terror brought about by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is off Tony's radar, panic attacks and insomnia are more present worries. The slightest mention of New York City is enough to send him searching madly for his iron cocoon. Tony being Tony, trouble doesn't stay in his rear-view for long. He finds himself in the middle of a press conference where he gives the world his address and begs the Mandarin to man up and come at him. Lo and behold, trouble knocks on his door. Loudly.
The similarities between Shane Black's last team-up with Robert Downey Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) are quite instant. The film begins with a voice over and treads back into a more familiar starting point, just like the 2005 release. And the similarities don't end there, every nudge and wink about genre tropes from that film is present in Iron Man 3 as well. Everything is played up for laughs in this sequel and one wonders if there is a spot where Murtaugh comes in to tell everyone "he's too old for this shit" left on the cutting room floor.
At first glance, Black looks like he may scale back the over the top nature antics of Iron Man 2 in favor of a real-world threat like terrorism. Such expectations are lost during the third act as one villain is successfully defanged to the point of laughter and replaced by a much more vanilla nemesis with questionable motives. How much you enjoy this trickery will define the film's reception.
Excess is abound, villains come back from the dead multiple times, seemingly every character in the Iron Man universe has a power or suit of their own. There's just too much of everything. It's a shame considering that Downey is perhaps at his most Tony and left to fend for himself without the crimson and gold for large portions of the film. These moments are where Iron Man 3 shines.
Marvel has effectively made Iron Man into the James Bond franchise of comic book franchises at the film's conclusion. Robert Downey Jr.'s contract is up after this picture and, should he decide to walk away, this film easily serves as a tidy wrapping for this particular interpretation of the character. Though with Avengers 2 looming, it's likely Marvel will back in the dump trucks of cash to bring him back. Hopefully they do, as RDJ says "I am Iron Man" and the franchise would be lost without him.
**1/2 out of ****