Once some of the more major spoilers started to hit the Web for Iron Man 3, it became clear that the movie wasn’t going to please everyone. More akin to The Dark Knight Rises than The Avengers, director Shane Black and his co-writer Drew Pearce took some chances–some of which paid off and some of which didn’t.
But the ones that paid off were, in general, pretty impressively done. We've already told you what we didn't love about this movie--and been chastised by the fans of the film for it. What did we like? Read on...
They gave us an ending.
Everybody loves a trilogy, and while most fans are still hoping for more Iron Man films with Robert Downey, Jr., this movie did its best to give fans a conclusion that will allow the films to seem definitive if, five years from now, somebody else is in the suit for Iron Man 4.
In doing so, Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce did something that's remarkably hard to pull off in a feature film: they provided fans with an ending that's satisfying in its own right, without closing too many doors.
There was reportedly an alternate ending out there, where Tony offered Pepper that he would give up being Iron Man in order to convince her to give up her powers. I'm glad that didn't make it to the screen, as it diminishes everyone involved--Pepper seems power-hungry, and Tony seems controlling, not to mention the fact that he isn't Iron Man just for himself anymore, and quitting the gig because his girlfriend is being difficult seems like a decidedly unheroic way to go out. Still, that final scene with Tony throwing away the Arc Reactor could have been filmed for either version, with Tony's voiceover/chat with Banner being the only way you know which way it would go.
Even if you didn't like the movie, it's probably not the fault of the actors. Given the script they had to work with, it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Pearce and Kingsley as the villains, and Rebecca Hall was so endearing and had such presence onscreen that you could easily see how she'd be appealing to Tony. Ty Simpkins had the unenviable task of being the Cousin Oliver to Downey, Paltrow and Cheadle's Brady Bunch and while the film would have been just as good without the plucky kid sidekick, Simpkins did everything he could to keep the curse of the child actor from striking the film, and managed it pretty well. And while the Extremis soldiers were more or less interchangeable, Stephanie Szostak and James Badge Dale had as many memorable moments as Ben Kingsley did.
Killian was a credible threat.
A lot of attention will be focused on The Mandarin--and many fans are disappointed in that character's portrayal--but that leaves Guy Pearce's Aldrich "I am the real Mandarin" Killian out of the equation. He's brutal, he's brilliant and in many ways he's the opposite number that Tony never really had in Obadiah Stane.
If you strip everything away from Stane and Stark and force them to go mano a mano with the same technology and the same advantages, Stark wins 100 times out of 100. You really didn't get that impression out of Killian.
As much as we picked on how little the Extremis soldiers were utilized and the fact that all these familiar names came up only to be dropped or killed off...well, they came up, didn't they? The fact that familiar names were dropped, but that it was done in a way that the average, non-comics-reading moviegoer didn't feel they were out of place or weird, tells us that Black accomplished what he set out to do.
Tony and Pepper0comments
They did what they needed to do with Tony and Pepper. The couple, now together for a few years, weren't perfect and always smiling, but they didn't pull a b.s. breakup out of their hat to reinvigorate the "will they or won't they" chemistry that made them so interesting in the first movie.
That was a real concern along the way, as interviews with the filmmakers and actors seemed to imply that Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian came in and created a "love rectangle" with Pepper and Tony. Sure, there were some flirtations along the way but at no point did we think there was going to be cheating, or that Pepper would be taken in by Killian's smarmy charm, or anything like that. That's important because the relationship with Pepper has been the one constant in a sea of change for Tony, and if he'd abandoned that in search of something else, it would have seemed like he hadn't matured at all in the course of the last five years.