It has become increasingly popular in “superhero” movies to depict a flawed hero. This makes sense. A squeaky clean hero is not only unrealistic, but difficult for the ordinary person to relate to. Batman and Iron Man have both enjoyed huge popularity in recent years with The Dark Knight being one of my favourite films ever (yes, *ever*, alongside such greats as Il Gattopardo, Lawrence of Arabia, and Seven Samurai). I think the reason these two superheroes have enjoyed such popularity is because they are among the most “human” of them all, in that they possess no super powers.
Something interesting that I have noticed is that both Iron Man and Batman are both very rich. More than that, their wealth is inherited. Somewhere in the subtext is the underlying notion that despite their wealth and material comforts, they are dissatisfied and want to make something of themselves beyond being “that rich guy”. Besides being a nice lesson for children (money’s nice, but it’s a means to an end, and making it an end in and of itself is inherently dissatisfying) it also provides great scope for that “spared no expense” approach to manufacturing their gadgets, and therein lies the other relatable thing that these guys share with present day people – a love of gadgets.
But Iron Man 3, much like the third Batman movie, finds our hero in a state of disrepair. He is working obsessively, not getting enough sleep, and is being haunted by his past. This film takes place sometime not long after the events of The Avengers, and Iron Man suffers the occasional flashback from almost swallowed by a collapsing wormhole through space-time (and who wouldn’t… honestly?). In a neat reflection of this, the main antagonist (i.e. the villain) is also a person from his past who has come back to haunt him. The film actually begins with the flashback to where this “conflict” began.
I’ll be honest, they could have done a better job of making Guy Pierce look like a loser in those early scenes. Messy hair, poor fashion sense, and glasses can only hide those chiseled features so well. A small amount of foam latex face and neck fat might have gone a long way to make his “loser character” less obviously the villain who would come back to haunt Stark (although, the lead-in narration also kinda gives it away).
The story is engaging, and the special effects spectacular if a little bit overdone. In particular, the scene where Stark’s house is destroyed reminded me of scenes from Star Trek: Into Darkness, which is weird because one shouldn’t expect a space vessel to take damage in the same way that a concrete house would. The build up to the inevitable final showdown is predictable but well-managed, not falling into the trap of going too over the top too soon (although I’m sure some might disagree with me, including my future self). For most of the film, the plot is motivated by a detective story, and then when all is revealed it becomes motivated by the struggle of our hero to confront his demons and save the day.
Small surprises and the occasional corny one-liner keep this interesting. I personally prefer the first film of the series, but this one is definitely better than the second film, which was quite watchable. In other words, go see it – it’s good.