Despite what you may have read, this is not the best Iron Man movie ever made.
The best Iron Man movie ever made is The Avengers. And that's because, so far as comic book super-hero films go, that movie was insane. Finally... finally we got to see all-out super-hero action taken to the degree it's at in the comics, and Iron Man was a huge part of that.
So I guess that Iron Man 3 would be the second-best Iron Man film ever made.
More or less...
Co-written and directed by Shane Black, the writer genius behind Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, Iron Man 3 is a very good film in a surprising number of ways. Even if you were take Iron Man out of the equation. Which the movie does... a lot... because Tony Stark is the star of this show. Iron Man is relegated to a supporting player (albeit an important one).
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark so flawlessly that you're always left wanting more... on the other... well, you're going to an Iron Man movie to see Iron Man.
Putting all that aside, the film feels very Shane Black. Which is mostly a good thing.
There be spoilers from here on out, so don't click through to the extended entry unless you've already seen Iron Man 3...
The film opens with a framing sequence that doesn't really pay off until one of Marvel's famous "extra scenes" after the end-credits roll. It also starts off with a flashback. A flashback which has a very cool link to the first Iron Man film, but also sets up the entire plot. Including an interesting bit of bio-tech called "Extremis" that can give people super-strength and an internal fire that can burn through most anything... or cause them to explode if their body rejects it. We're also introduced to the obviously-going-to-become-a-villain Aldrich Killian and his Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) think tank. Tony Stark treats him badly in 1999, which has big repercussions in the present day.
And... we're back.
Haunted by the death and destruction of the alien invasion of New York (from The Avengers), Tony is having anxiety attacks and is unable to sleep. I understand this was to give Tony something new to overcome and make the role interesting for Robert Downey Jr. to play... but it's a subplot that mostly gets in the way. Not always in a bad way, as it does move the plot forward, but it feels very manufactured and gimmicky when it pops up in the story.
In any event, the sleeplessness is an excuse for Tony to spend eore time in his lab building Iron Man suits, and we're up to the Mark 42 armor when the film begins. This is making his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) unhappy because she'd rather he spend the time with her. As if the holidays (it's Christmastime!) wasn't stressful enough.
Enter "The Mandarin," a global terrorist who's fond of killing people and blowing stuff up. When Tony Stark's ex-bodyguard, Happy Hogan (who is now head of security at Stark Industries), becomes collateral damage in a Mandarin attack, Stark takes it personally and issues a challenge to The Mandarin on national television. A challenge which goes terribly wrong when his Santa Monica cliffside mansion is blown up by helicopters with missiles, nearly taking Pepper with it. Now Tony gets to play detective so he can track down The Mandarin and have vengeance against the terrorist who's hell-bent on destroying everything he cares about. Action (and more than a little humor) ensues.
And now for a recap of the things that worked... and a few things that didn't...
So... overall, an awesome film that keeps pushing the Cinematic Marvel Universe forward. Highly recommended, even if you're not a big comic book fan.
And now I guess it's time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" as follows...
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Superman Returns... C+
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B