I must say I didn't enter the cinema with a lot of expectations. Iron Man 2 wasn't a particular favorite of mine and this third movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark wasn't high on my list of movies to watch. Fortunately, it seems third times the charm as Iron Man 3 is far better than Iron Man 2.
Director Shane Black, replacing Jon Favreau, kept a brisk pace throughout the movie as a suffering Tony tried his best to live in domestic bliss with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). However his past catches up with him as botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and her wealthy benefactor, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), tried to get Stark Enterprise to invest in their prize project, Extremis. An unstable program that change the human DNA chain to cure the sick, regrow missing limbs and even make you super strong, Pepper rejects investing in the project as she feared the technology could be a weapon.
At the same time, an international terrorist called the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kinsgley) launched a series of attack on America, one of which landed Stark security chief Happy (Favreau) in a coma. Stark publicly vow vengeance and from there the movie goes into overdrive as we discover the link between Extremis and the Mandarin.
For a summer blockbuster, Iron Man 3 is surprisingly smarter than most blockbusters you'll see. For one thing, having Tony suffering from PTSD (due to the events of “The Avengers”) was a smart move. Tony is just a man, and after fighting gods and an alien army, it makes perfect sense he would be suffering from the battle.
Now I know some fans, especially those who read comics, were very unhappy about the twist on who the villain was, but I thought it was kind of funny. Having the switcheroo works, especially when they started talking about fears of the general public and how well it played to focus groups. Funny social commentary is always a plus in my books.
Also the cast did a great job. Sir Ben Kingsley was the clear standout performer as he basically played two roles in this movie, and he did them with great aplomb. The scene when the truth came out as Tony cornered the Mandarin only works due to his brilliance. Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Pearce also did good work in the movie.
Outside that, having a new director seem to do the trick as Shane Black gave the movie an energy that I thought was missing from Iron Man 2. There are some very impressive set-pieces in this movie. The raid that destroyed Stark’s Malibu pad was great and the mid-air rescue (if somewhat ridiculous) was spectacular.
Having said all that, some parts of the movie wasn't to my liking. The finale was somewhat anti-climatic. Having Tony ordering 30+ Iron Man suits into battle was overkill. Frankly, it gave him too much of an advantage. In movies, heroes are supposed to be the underdog, not the overwhelming favorite in the battle.
Also, there was a slight overload of characters and some of them got lost in the shuffle. Rebecca Hall's character changed side for no reason near the end and Don Cheadle's James Rhodes had too little screen time.
However as I said earlier, I found Iron Man 3 is far superior to Iron Man 2. It's not as good as Iron Man but it's also not the feared kiss of death for the “Iron Man” series. It's a good superhero movie backed by a good performance from the cast. In short, as its receipts has already shown, Iron Man 3 is a solid blockbuster.