"My name is Stark...Tony Stark."
To paraphrase a well-known saying, this movie as a whole is not greater than the sum of its parts...but some of its parts are pretty damn good. That's what makes the movie a little frustrating. For every scene that blew me away, there were two or more scenes that made me scratch my head.
Iron Man 3 picks up where the Avengers left off, and Tony Stark is suffering from PTSD, after having been in a battle with alien invaders, a demi-god and after having flown into another dimension with a nuclear bomb. The problem is, this subplot, which could've been very interesting, is never really developed. Rather it's shoe-horned in merely as a callback device to tie it to the Avengers and thereby remind us that Avengers 2 is on the horizon. Now that Stark has incorporated artificial intelligence and autonomous mental control between himself, his suits and JARVIS, there's a great moment between a sleeping Tony Stark and Pepper Potts which demonstrates how dangerous Stark can be when mentally unstable. But again, it really goes nowhere. But mentioning JARVIS and artificial intelligence raises another conundrum I had with the film.
There were times in this film when I thought the title should have been Iron Suit as opposed to Iron Man. I mean, there are long stretches of this film where Tony Stark uses JARVIS's AI to control the suits remotely, which begs the question, at what point does Tony Stark cease being a superhero and rather becomes a Rockem Sockem Robot player? Is it fun to watch a superhero control his suits from afar, out of harm's way? Does it beg the question, if the suits can perform so well autonomously, why would Stark ever wear them in the first place? And, by the way, Stark should forget about designing Iron Man suits and patent JARVIS, who has one hell of a wifi network.
There are also stretches of this film where I felt like Robert Downey, Jr. must have lobbied to have a James Bond/Jason Bourne action set piece, because there are scenes where Stark takes out bad guys so efficiently without the use of his armor, you wonder if he could've chopped it up with Captain America on the heiicarrier in Avengers. Really out of character and one scene in particular plays like a parody of Bond. There is also an interminable middle act that features Tony Stark trapped in Tennessee (??) with the aid of a 13 year old boy who apparently comes from the Charlie Brown universe because we never see nor are given any indication that his parents exist.
Then there's the biggest, most egregious error this movie makes: the Mandarin. Chances are you know what I'm talking about by now, but I still won't spoil it. What I will say is that, even though Iron Man was not one of the comics I read or collected growing up, I was still furious over the portrayal of the Mandarin. What Shane Black did to this character is unforgivable. And it's irreversible. Again, not spoiling it, but let's just say now the Mandarin can never exist in the Marvel movie universe. And no, he doesn't die. But despite the unfortunate turn that the Mandarin character experiences, Ben Kingsley kills it.
Having said all this, there are scenes that are incredible. Tony Stark's house being blown up by the Mandarin, the standout scene of Iron Man rescuing passengers of Air Force One, a scene where Tony Stark acquires his armor piece by piece during an escape. The climactic scene at the end is cool, but is an exercise in overkill and bad guys become nothing more than videogame targets much like the Chitauri in Avengers. GREAT scenes. This, along with some pretty cool bad guys, makes the movie worth seeing. But you might find yourself wishing than Tony Stark would get the hell out of Tennessee and get back in the suit. 3/5 reels, 3D not recommended