Iron Man 3

Let me start off with a spoiler warning. I'm going to talk about things pretty openly, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, you might want to turn away after looking at this delightful movie poster...

"Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?" - Steve Rogers, The Avengers, 2012

We all know Tony Stark had a glib response ready to go when Cap asked him that in the heat of the moment in last year's biggest Summer blockbuster, but that's all it was: a glib response. The real answer to that question? Well, that's exactly what Iron Man 3 is all about. The movie gives us a Tony Stark freshly traumatized and paranoid after the events of The Avengers, not sleeping and keeping himself locked away making Iron Man suits. The suit he rode into a wormhole was the Mark VII. As in, seven. The latest one we see him working on in IM3? The Mark XLII. Yes, forty-two.

Tony's been a busy boy. The ironic thing is that the plot of the movie keeps him out of any kind of armor for I'd say at least 75% of the time. He wears the barely functional Mark XLII to survive an attack on his home by the Mandarin and then has to drag it's powerless carcass through the snow in a truly beautiful bit of cinematography that we all saw from the trailers..

Tony spends the next hour or so of the movie showing just what he can do without the suit. He shows off some great detective skills, uses his vaunted skills as a mechanic and engineer, and gets into and wins some fairly awesome fight scenes that lead me to believe he's been hanging out with the Black Widow in his spare time.

Admit it, you would too, if you could.

Of course, it wouldn't be Iron Man if he didn't get back in the suit, which, with the help of his buddy Rhodey (who also gets a lot more to do both in and out of his War Ma... excuse me, Iron patriot... suit this time around) he eventually does after a thrilling aerial rescue sequence. In fact, he gets into a lot more than one suit for the film's climax. To fight off the Extremis-enhanced goons of Aldrich Killian, he summons all forty-two of his suits in what was one of the greatest action movie climaxes I've ever scene. I won't go and spoil the ending, but it's pretty glorious.

Now, mentioning Aldrich Killian, I can't bring him up without getting into the "controversy" over how the movie treated the character of the Mandarin and the way people are saying he was turned into a joke. Yes, the character Sir Ben Kingsley played was a joke... but he wasn't the Mandarin. He was just an actor. As Killian himself says as one of his final lines. HE was the Mandarin. He was the Mandarin the whole time. As far as I can see, there are two reasons for the change. One, the way the Mandarin is in the comics... well, he really is a racist caricature that probably wouldn't play well in the movies. And two, making Killian the Mandarin really ties the whole trilogy together and goes a long way towards answering the question Captain America asks Tony.

Think about it. The opening scene of IM3 goes back to 1999, to a party after the speech Dr. Yinsen mentions he met Tony at way back in IM1. If Tony hadn't played Killian for a schmuck in that scene, maybe Killian never goes bad. The Iron Man series has always been about Tony having to pay for his own mistakes, and this was a big one. But think about it even more. Killian says he was ALWAYS the Mandarin. He's not just talking about the events of this movie. The terrorist group is he is captured and held by in IM1 is the Ten Rings, and they use the same logo we see at the start of each of the Mandarin's videos. The Ten Rings worked for the Mandarin. They worked for Killian. Everything that happened to Tony in the cave in Afghanistan happened because of Killian, and it made never have happened if Tony wasn't a dick when he was younger.

And that answers Cap's question. Who is Tony Stark without the armor, besides a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist? As it turns out, also a pretty good detective and fighter. But more than that, he's a man who makes up for his mistakes, and, in his own words, protects the people he put in harm's way.

In closing, IM3 is a great movie with the performances you'd expect, with the right mix of action and humor. As far as Marvel movies go, I'd say the only ones better are IM1 and The Avengers. Do I think it's RDJ's last outing as Iron Man as people on the internet are speculating? No. He'll definitely be in The Avengers 2. I do think, though, that this might be his last solo outing. It felt like the end of his story, and Marvel has plenty of other characters they can focus on. So if it is the end of the Iron Man series, well, it was a hell of a ride.