At the beginning of this installment, Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is working through his post-traumatic stress after the events of "The Avengers," being somewhat freaked out that he is an "ordinary guy" (where values of "ordinary" include super-rich, super genius, and getting it on with Gwyneth Paltrow) dealing with aliens, monsters, gods, and super-soldiers. He's becoming increaingly withdrawn, begining to interact even with Pepper (Paltrow) through his suits as a mask. He's shaken out of his shell (so to speak) when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is critically injured in an explosion attributed to terrorist "The Mandarin." He unwisely calls the Mandarin out, with dire consequences.
The character of the Mandarin, as given to Sir Ben Kingsly to play, is rather a cross between Osama Bin Laden and "Bane" from "The Dark Knight Rises." Comic geeks get a major hint that this isn't the classic Mandarin when A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) is referenced early on: also well-known Marvel bad guys, they never worked with the Mandarin in the comic books, so what does happen with him is a suprprise that I did not see coming.
It strikes me that a major factor that makes the "Iron Man" trilogy (so far) better than the recent Christian Bale "Batman" trilogy is that Tony Stark spends most of the movies being Tony Stark and only suits up for the action sequences, whereas in Batman, all the interesting stuff happens when Bruce Wayne is being Batman, and we don't see as much in the way of character interaction. In Iron Man Three, Downey gets an extended sequence of wisecracking with Ty Simpkins as the resourceful boy he ends up relying on for help. These scenes establish that, while Stark is still a jerk, he's a mellowed jerk--.
There's of course the obigatory whiz-bang final battle with some genuinely formidable villains, and a very interesting ending which puts the future of "Iron Man" in question (although the end credits advise us, James-Bond-style that "Tony Stark will return").
A very good, and strong entry for fans of the Marvel Movies.
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