‘Iron Man 3’ is a smorgasbord of action and humor

© Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios

Avengers changed everything, and Iron Man 3 shows how Tony’s previous actions have impacted his present. He is just as brazen, but with the emotional volatility of one whose world has been shattered.

But enough of that emotional stuff. Director/writer Shane Black took 8 years between Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, and the brilliant voice and style presented in his previous work continue to shine even when expanded into superhero cinema. From the quiet opening narration to the illogical but hilarious tag, Iron Man 3 is a smorgasbord of action, explosions, metal and humor. The stakes are clearly raised, along with the amount of metal suits (almost to the point of bloat) but Tony Stark remains a solid foundation, as sly and nonchalant as ever.

Several stretches would be dull or too sweet if Tony weren’t such an awesome jerk. Yet even at his most arrogant, he remains giving (you know who he is). Once again, Downey Jr. proves he is Tony Stark. The rest of cast does their jobs admirably as well: Paltrow’s presence is significantly stronger, Cheadle’s screen time may be reduced but his character is not, and Kingsley is perfect for his part.

Any doubt there was toward handling the Mandarin’s magic in a scientific world is wiped by a plot that takes the current global climate to superhero proportions. While the story is predictably convoluted, and the technology so advanced it may as well be Asgard, there are many serious issues eluded to (war on terror, use of stagecraft for fear, perversion of science). It’s a little odd that an international terror plot eventually bottlenecks on Tony, but among the litany of logical fallacies presented, this one is minor. Besides, if Iron Man 3 stuck strictly to the laws of reason or science, it wouldn’t be so damn much fun.

About Jess Kroll

Jess Kroll
Jess Kroll is a novelist and university professor born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and based in Daegu, South Korea. He has been writing film reviews since 2004 and has been exclusive to Pop Mythology since 2012. His novels include 'Land of Smiles' from Monsoon Books and young adult series 'The One' and 'Werewolf Council' from Epic Press.


  1. I thought it was fun for the most part, but too long and it didn't take itself nearly as serious as I thought it should've. At least it's better than Iron Man 2

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Hi there, Brendon. Thanks so much for your comment! I thought it was better than 'Iron Man 2' also, and I also thought that although it was quite funny and enjoyable in that way, at times I thought that maybe it was trying to be too funny at the expense of some needed gravity in certain situations (like just a short moment after Pepper supposedly "dies," for example, something funny happens and Tony's like "whatever."). The first is still my favorite, having the right balance of humor and seriousness. But I like 3 quite a bit overall for certain other reasons besides what we've mentioned here.

  2. My big complaint with it was that it didn't really feel like an Iron Man comic. Wheedon understood and shot Avengers like a comic book (and that made it awesome). Iron Man was an action movie with Iron Man/Marvel references thrown in (and usually misused). Plus, the Mandarin could have been so awesome, he's one of my favorite Iron Man villains.

    That said, it was a great, fun movie with decent pacing that I'll be happy to watch again. It just doesn't reach Avengers level awesomeness because it isn't trying to BE the source material.

  3. Jess Kroll

    Thanks for the comment Brendon, I was hoping you'd offer an opinion after mentioning it on Facebook. There is some gravity lost to levity, but I thought that was kind of needed in order to keep the movie from being too dark. I mean, I became rather shocked after considering how many people were killed in the story. Even Pepper has a body count! It's also kind of Tony's defense mechanism to become bolder and snarkier when confronted with something ugly, so I personally thought the humor works. In fact, in the entire Iron Man trilogy the humor is one of the best parts. It fits this Tony and, let's face it, there's an inherent silliness to the premise of all superhero movies. The Dark Knight trilogy dealt with it by sheer spectacle, ambition and depth, but most non-Christopher Nolan comic book movies can't pull this off. Excepting that series the best superhero films have laughed at themselves (Spiderman 2, X-Men 2, even Hellboy in its own way), while the worst take themselves way too seriously (either Hulks, Daredevil). It's also Shane Black's thing, and what he does so well. This is the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon 1 & 2.

    Kyle, to be honest, I was never a fan of the comic, except for the Heroes Reborn run with Whilce Portacio and Scott Lobdell (long time Portacio fan) and the subsequent Kurt Busiek/Sean Chen relaunch (ditto Busiek), so I'm not that familiar with Iron Man or Avengers really (again, I read the Busiek relaunch and little else). Whedon was perfect for Avengers because he'd written the characters before and there's little any Marvel movie can do to equal that, especially considering the build-up. For the most part movies have to be seen as a separate universe from the source material. I remember being extremely disappointed with the most recent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie until I thought about it as a different version of the story, kind of like the various Marvel universes that there are. Most comic book movies require the same separation. Besides, if Watchmen taught us anything, and Daniel and I spoke about this a little while ago, slavish devotion to the source material can result in a pretty jarring and uneven film. And Ang Lee's Hulk, in my opinion, showed that recreating a comic on screen just makes the film look sillier. Personally, I'd rather the film be a bit of change and awesome than exactly the story and mediocre.

    And lastly, Daniel, I think what worked so well with Iron Man 1 was that it was unexpected. Did anyone really think a second tier Marvel character and the writer/star of Swingers would make such a magnificent match? It's just too bad Dark Knight came out like two months later and changed everything.

    I think we can all agree Iron Man 2 was a disappointment. Still better than Spiderman 3 though.

  4. I was actually pretty disappointed with this movie. I'm not sure why, but so much of the comic book element of Iron Man was jettisoned. I suppose it could be that Marvel have, unfortunately, gone too far now. I can imagine their marketing department sitting around making decisions, and each time they make one it always comes with the proviso "OK, this is DEFINITELY the last one", but then of course, a bit of cash gets wafted under their nose and the process repeats itself. I wondered why Iron Man 3 came out post-Avengers, and now I have my answer – cash! It was simply an action movie using a Marvel character as a means to generate more income. Where was the ridiculous science behind the orange people? Whether it's radioactive GM spiders, or Tony Stark creating a new element, or genetic mutation explaining superpowers, or rainbow bridges allowing gods to travel freely about the universe, Marvel has always been about the ridiculous science behind their superheroes. It doesn't have to be true, but some kind of explanation is part of the fun. I don't recall anyone explaining why Guy Pearce could turn orange, and I still don't know exactly what you need to do to kill one of them. Why did blowing up the suit with Guy Pearce in it NOT kill him whilst all Pepper needed to do was throw a dart at him? Overall, a very poor attempt at keeping some magic alive.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Hey, Simon, sorry you didn't like the movie. I quite liked it though I sympathize with the points you make. Maybe they dispensed with the wacky pseudo-science 'cause they thought people would be bored by it, who knows. Your point about the exploding suit not being able to kill Killian but Pepper being able to is a good one. I think they just wanted to give Pepper a chance to kick some ass before ending the trilogy. As long as we're doing the nitpicking though, I guess one thing that kinda bothered me, despite the fact that I liked the movie, was that the suits in general seemed too fragile this time. In the first movie, Tony got hit with a tank shell while in the suit and all it did was piss him off. In this one, the suit gets hit by a truck and it breaks into a bunch of pieces. Maybe the filmmaker's rationale would be that the suit was hollow, but if it can come apart with that kind of impact, anyone in the suit would have clearly died. And there's that one scene when Tony's facing off against Killian and his suit comes flying to him but runs into a pole and shatters again. It was funny but doesn't make sense given how powerful the suits are really supposed to be.

    • Jess Kroll

      Hi Simon, thanks for the reply. Yeah, the science might not be completely explained but it is established early on with Maya's plant exploding after healing. In my opinion that serves as explanation enough for the glowing orange and explody people., it's part of the regeneration process. As for the consistency of death from a dart, maybe that's simply the point where the regeneration gave out. Killian's system had been worked hard. Even Wolverine gets to the point where his body runs out of energy, Like in fighting games, you do your biggest move but the enemy continues with a sliver of life. One jab and that's it. The biggest criticism I've read is over the departure from the comics. It's valid, but every comic book movie ever has departed from the comics. The medium demands a change. As Daniel stated in his analysis of the movie, this time they did a great job of showing that the suit doesn't make Tony a hero. Tony is a hero because Tony is a hero. Suit or not. The suit woke him up, but it doesn't need it.

  5. I saw the movie a couple days ago and agree that it's not as good as the original movie. Isn't this weird, though? We liked the most predictable story arc–Tony Stark becoming Iron Man, but when we see a movie involving Iron Man with a story arc we're not familiar with, it's not as good. Will a future Iron Man movie ever outdo the first one in 2008? I doubt it.

    • The Pop Mythologist

      Yeah, although I still quite enjoyed it and still found plenty of mythical, spiritual ideas to take away from it.

    • I still think part of what made Iron Man such a great film was the fact that no one expected it to be a great film. Iron Man was not a marquee superhero before the movie, sure he's been around forever and had a audience but he was easily less iconic than Spiderman, Cap, Hulk, X-Men, even Punisher. Plus, it was the writer of Swingers and director of Made and Zathura, who would have thought Jon Favreau had such a feat in him? By Iron Man 3, expectations were sky high.

      Even Godfather 2 suffers from the standard of its predecessor.

      Thanks for the comment!

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