Iron Man 3 proves its metal

It’s widely known that the trend in movie sequels is a negative one and, until the release of the third installment, this sad state of affairs held true for the Iron Man films. The first had been phenomenal, the second, to state it kindly, had been underwhelming. Thus my hopes for Iron Man 3 were not high, but I can happily say that I was most pleasantly surprised. Funny, scary and touching, Iron Man 3 definitely delivers. And while it does not quite equal the first film’s splendor, it definitely outshines the plot-driven disappointment that was Iron Man 2.

I firmly believe that Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark and, once again, he is by far the most memorable aspect of the movie. His delivery of the character, racked by anxiety and trauma in the wake of the events of Avengers, is incredible, and offers one of the most sympathetic, human portraits of a superhero I have ever seen. Tony has endured practically every type of ordeal imaginable and, understandably, has not come away from them either physically or mentally unscathed. While maintaining his trademark humor, Downey manages to come across almost brittle. His sassy demeanor is punctuated by a note of desperation as he tries to convince those around him that nothing is wrong with him. I felt myself becoming more deeply invested in his battle with his own personal demons than in the Mandarin’s (Ben Kingsley) plot.

While Tony takes the spotlight, Iron Man 3 provides supporting characters Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) with more agency than in any of the previous films. Rhodey and Tony’s buddy-cop chemistry makes for great action and banter, and the romance between Pepper and Tony (a pairing dubbed “Pepperony” by fans) is natural and funny.

Iron Man 3 is a roller-coaster ride of a film and makes for excellent entertainment. It’s no film of the century, being rather rushed in certain areas (end sequence I’m looking at you) and hard to follow in others (I’m still a little fuzzy on the details of the Extremis plot), but the unexpected twists, the brilliant acting and the focus on Tony’s character more than make up for its faults.