Before we begin, let's have a preamble The Iron Man movie franchise has a special place in my heart. The first movie came out when I was finishing high school and finding my way towards college. It helped me to solidify my interest in the field of mechanical engineering, rather than another similar field or my backup option of journalism. The first movie also helped to ground my interest in comic book culture, and it spearheaded the Marvel movie franchise. Also, the movie itself was pretty good. Things went boom.
As for the third movie, I liked it. It doesn't have the same feel as Iron Man the first, and it shouldn't. This movie takes place after The Avengers, and it's better for it. Tony Stark has to deal with the emotional backlash and turmoil that comes with saving a city from alien invader with the help of space-gods from another dimension (or planet? Thor still confuses me) and it's destroying him. It's a nice contrast to comics where events like these can break a person's mind. The stress and panic attacks really humanize the character.
A short list of all of the things I really loved: The characterization and duality of The Mandarin was a total surprise. the character was handled in a way I found to be interesting, believable and a total 180 turn from how the character is done in the comic medium. A brief rundown of who the Mandarin is in comics: A guy who finds a crashed spaceship and the 10 hyper-technological rings inside, confusing them for magic items. Which are capable of summoning a giant green space-dragon who wears short-shorts. With all of that nonsense, the character was re-defined very well in Iron Man 3.
The re-branding of War Machine into Iron Patriot may seem silly at first, but in terms of plot and story structure it makes sense. The bad guys are using this personification of American self-righteousness and assertion to destroy the country from within.
Who are the bad guys? Long and convoluted. The short version: They are regenerating fire-men who use an ill-defined technology called "Extremis" to breathe fire and be super awesome. Imagine Captain America mixed with the Human Torch. Imagine a hodgepodge of Chris Evans' two Marvel-related movie roles, but fifty of them and evil. The technology is used to do exactly what Tony Stark has done to himself: fix people with broken bodies. It's a nice contrast. They represent the evil-scientist-commune called AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), but there's a lot of potential here for AIM to be larger and stronger than they are represented here. In my mind, they could easily be as strong and prominent as HYDRA was in the Captain America movie.
I plan to keep this review short for now, so let's focus on what I thought was unnecessary: the Christmas sub-plot. Or is it a theme? Regardless, the story benefited in no way from having all of the events occur around the holiday season. It could have easily been Pepper's birthday, resulting in the same amount of relationship trouble while also having a nice nod back to the first movie.
The post-credits scene? Hilarious, lovely, everything I wanted. Except it doesn't' set up any other movie. I won't go into detail here, but I didn't feel like Iron Man 3 allowed for the other Marvel franchise movies to sneak in. The movie is for all purposes a finale' to the Iron Man movie franchise. In the last five minutes, we see Stark getting a surgery to remove the shrapnel from his chest. The arc reactor is no longer a part of him, and his home and all of his suits are gone. What does this mean for future Marvel movies? Iron Man is the cornerstone of the franchise, and I hope that the other movies (Avengers 2 primarily) won't suffer from this supposed end-of-story. There are rumors that Iron Man will be "a big part" in Avengers 2, but I'll just wait and see if that holds true.
Oh wait, Iron Man 4 is coming out in 2017? With an Iron Man 5 planned?
Sign me up.
Oh wait, that's four years from now? Damn. Time to cry in a corner and pray that Ant-man movie works out in 2015.