Iron Man 3 has basically the same plot as the first two Iron Man films; Tony Stark, the lone good industrialist, vs evil businessmen. Unlike the first Iron Man film, it doesn’t have the baggage of supplying an origin story. Unlike the second Iron Man film, it doesn’t have many more surprises available in the technology department.
In fact, with Iron Man 3 we begin to see the dream of technology failing. Tony’s suits are sometimes unreliable, running low on battery charge or vindictively rebelling against their creator. There are still a selection of expensive Audis, but most of them get trashed, as shown in the trailer. The trailer, which I thought was the epitome of ruin-the-experience-by-showing-the-entire-plot, turned out to be full of misdirection, which allowed the film to squeeze in enough twists to actually be interesting again, even as the plot remained boilerplate this is a good businessman in a metal suit vs an evil businessman in a wool suit arc.
The villain of the piece is invisible in the trailer: well, there are several surprise villains. Tony’s psyche is perhaps one of them, as he cracks up, dealing with PTSD from last year’s Avengers film. This felt a little laboured, as if Tony had suffered more than I had from sitting through the bum-numbing drawn-out conclusion of Joss Whedon’s epic.
There’s a crowd of technicians who hang around doing evil things for the villain, which strikes me as a bit odd. Are they fanatics? Well paid? Or do they think they’re actually the good guys? That sort of thing is never really addressed, whether it’s roofing contractors on the Death Star being blown up, or Generic Evil Henchmen fighting to the death for no good reason. (There is at least an attempt to handle this, as one henchman quits the fight, declaring that the people he work with are too weird. Ah, realism in a superhero film, whatever next?)
I enjoyed almost all of the film. There are a few twists at the very end that were mindbendingly obvious rather than great surprises (unless you’re six years old), but the whole thing is very competently done, with exciting setpieces and lots of polished action. You can even tell what’s going on all the time, rather than there being a mess of ultra-quick edits. I’m glad we didn’t try watching it in 3-D though; that probably would have melted my eyeballs and left me a husk of a man, rotting in my chair.
However, despite the end of the credits declaring that Tony Stark will return, it’s hard to see exactly how. There doesn’t seem to be much else to do with high tech battlesuits that hasn’t been done by the end of this film. Or by the end of the previous film: substitute evil Russian-controlled robots for the [redacted evil things] of Iron Man 3, and it’s hard to see the joins. Perhaps Iron Man 4 will portray Tony Stark in a succession of board meetings, sweating over P&L statements or getting angry emails from his office administrator about a blocked toilet.
Ah, too much realism in a superhero film. I doubt that is the whatever that will be whatever next.