If nothing else (and there’s plenty else), the record-breaking release of Iron Man 3 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt what last summer’s The Avengers already established: that Marvel has found a perfect way of translating its comic book universe to the big screen. While cross-town rival DC struggles to establish any movie franchise (other than Batman), Marvel has cranked out a string of films (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers) which exist in the same interconnected universe. The ties may be strong or light from one film to the next, but this new wave of Marvel films does what no other movie series has managed.
It’s a good year after the events of The Avengers, and superstar inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., still having a ton of fun) is having a bit of a crisis. Following the events in New York (which he does not want to talk about), he’s suffering a bit of post-traumatic stress. In a world with gods and aliens and all manner of super-beings, what good is one man in a tin suit? Tony’s self-doubt is pushed aside, though, when a high-tech terrorist named The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) strikes close to home. When Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, giving up the director’s chair) is injured in a bombing in Hollywood, Tony dares The Mandarin to come after him. The Mandarin obliges, destroying Tony’s home and most of his fancy toys. Presumed dead, our hero must pull himself up by his own bootstraps and find a way to defeat this deadly menace.
Downey has nailed his character so well, viewers will hardly begrudge the fact that Mr. Stark spends so much screen time out of his iconic armor. No worries, though, Don Cheadle is there to pick up slack as Iron Patriot (a politically correct rebranding of Iron Man 2’s War Machine). Fans of the comic books will quickly note that the storyline borrows quite a bit from the “Extremis” story arc written by Warren Ellis. Although the film version plays fast and loose with the comic book versions of The Mandarin and a little organization known as A.I.M., fans can’t grouse too much when the results work so well.
Obviously the film is already a huge smash, pulling in more than $200 million overseas and breaking box office records stateside. But Iron Man 3’s greatest strength is that it merely whets appetites for more Marvel action. Thor, Captain America, The Avengers: Just give us some more super-powered action, Marvel. And soon!
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