We all have demons of our own making, or so Tony Stark somberly intones at the start of Iron Man 3. He points out that it was said by some well known guy, and now that two well known guys have said, well, that’s helps make it important. This opening helps set a different tone for the film, letting the audience know that that this one will be different; darker, more introspective, and intense. However, it also lets us know that the trademark wit and charm of Tony Stark, put on sparkling display by Downey Jr., is still intact. The series still understands who the character is and that Iron Man films above all things should just plain be a good time. Still, it’s nice that this one starts with a different tone. The first film was a perfect fizzy mixture of fun, humor and comic book action adventure. The second film probably tried to be a bit too much like the first, trying to recreate everything that worked so well without delving too far into any new territory. The third film is willing to take risks while retaining much of the heart of the first. So, I guess you might say the Iron Man trilogy will end up being regarded as one of few truly successful film trilogies.
Of course, the star of the film is without a doubt Downey Jr. His roguish charm carries the film just as affably as ever (though Ben Kingsley steals a few scenes of his own, but we’ll get to that). Whenever Downey Jr. decides to step away from the role, Marvel is going to have a super hard time replacing him. He’s perfect for the role. Perhaps too perfect. Replacing him will be like trying to replace Christopher Reeves as Superman, and we all know how well that has gone. As he says at the end of the film, he is Iron Man. This movie cements that even more. What’s great is this time around that fantastic charm is paired with a darker story with more of an edge. It helps the Tony Stark wit stand out even more, but also raises the stakes to make this chapter feel like a truly perilous one for the character; both physically and emotionally. That’s just the kind of challenge Iron Man needed, and this film delivers…for the most part.
There is one key are that has me a bit concerned, and let me just say that you want to avoid anything even minorly SPOILERISH, you may want to skip this point. There aren’t any SPOILERS in the traditional sense here, but if you believe ignorance is bliss when it comes to movies, you’re best off not reading any further. Still with me? Right, so Ben Kingsley plays the Mandarin in this film; which is one of Iron Man’s main baddies from the comic books. It’s sort of like his Ra’s Al Ghul (one Batman’s chief adversaries), to an extent. However, the version here on screen isn’t exactly like the version in the comics, and I imagine that some fans may be disappointed, and indeed, even upset with what’s done with this character. Now, let me say that it works for this particular story. For this movie universe of Iron Man and for this set of circumstances, it’s a good plot point. However, I’d know how I’d feel if a character like Ra’s Al Ghul was radically changed like this, and I can’t imagine hardcore fans of Iron Man being too happy with it. Here ends anything SPOILERISH.
And as long as we’re talking about flaws, let me mention one other that kind of bugged me. As I was walking out of the theater, I realized that I couldn’t remember why anything that had happened happened. Oh, I know the villain talked about it at some point, but it seemed so insignificant in comparison to the grand events taking place that his motivation was almost non-existent. Now, this didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the film, but I still can’t help but wonder if a more thought-out, better explained motivating factor for the villain might have helped this movie be even better than it already is.
However, that’s okay because this story really isn’t about the bad guys; it’s about Tony Stark. It’s about him facing the demons of his own creation. It’s about him finding a way to start over with a clean slate in order to finally be free of those demons. The film is bookended with that concept of the demons of our own creations and how to find freedom from them. I think we can all admit that we’ve said or done some things in the past where we just didn’t think much about the far-reaching consequences. We all have demons of our own creation, and when they come back to haunt us, it’d be nice to find a way to get free from the, to truly have a clean slate to start over with. Tony Stark takes some drastic measures in his own “Clean Slate Protocol,” but I have to wonder if it will be enough (mainly because I’m fairly certain he’ll show up again in Avengers 2). Can any of us really do enough on our own to make up for the past and to give ourselves a clean slate? Well, the Bible would say no, we can’t. We can never do enough on our own to get that clean slate and to be free of those demons of our own making. However, there is still hope. There is one thing that can do for us what we could never do on our own; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of God’s only Son, his perfect life, his conquering of death through the resurrection, his spilled blood on the cross on our behalf is the only thing that can give us the clean slate we truly desire. We can be washed clean from the past (Isaiah 1:18) and we can get that fresh new start we so desperately need (2 Corinthians 5:17). It won’t happen through our own efforts, it only happens when we accept that what we couldn’t do, Jesus did for us. Tony Stark’s “Clean Slate Protocol” is likely to prove to not be enough. However, Jesus’ “Clean Slate Protocol” is more than enough to handle those demons of our own making and to give us the freedom we desire.
As the first of Marvel’s “Phase Two” films, there really isn’t a lot here to help tie The Avengers to these movies and its upcoming sequel. Oh, there are mentions here and there, but for the most part this story stands on its own. That may disappoint some fans, but I liked the fact that this was less of a bridge and more a bringing Iron Man’s world full-circle. There are fun little callbacks to the first two films sprinkled in throughout, and Tony is given a nice conclusion, even if it is an open-ended conclusion. A quick note on the 3D. It looks great and in particular helps the scene with Air Force One to become truly immersive, but for the most part, as with so many films, I don’t know that it really enhances the experience and once again, I’d say I’d rather see the brighter, crisper picture without the 3D than experience the few enhancements that come with it. Also, be sure to stay for the end credits Easter egg. It’s a good one; probably not quite what you’re expecting, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.
Score: 6 of 7 – Despite its flaws, Iron Man 3 is a fun, exciting, super-hero romp that this time as more of an edge to it. Indeed, take that PG-13 rating a bit more seriously than the other two films. This isn’t dark like Nolan’s Batman films, but the violence and action is more intense and brutal. Even Pepper Potts at one point says, “Wow! That was really violent!” There’s also a light sprinkling of language, and some mild sensuality as well. Iron Man 3 is really more for the older kids; certainly more so than the last two films.
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