The film starts after the events of The Avengers, when Tony Stark had had a near-death experience while fighting the aliens in New York which has left him shaken, so much so that even the mention of "aliens" or "New York" gives him panic attacks. His fiery lady-love Pepper Potts is concerned as this is taking a toll on their relationship. Plus there is a new baddie in town called the Mandarin who likes sending out really well-edited video clips of his terrorist attacks as "lessons" to the American president, amd may or may not have something to do with a very jaded Aldrich Killian. When the safety of his friends and Pepper is put in harm's way, Tony has to take "good old-fashioned revenge" with the help of his best friend Colonel James "Iron Patriot/War Machine" Rhodes, and his occasionally unreliable iron suits.
That's so much for the basic plot. The Iron Man movies for me have always been about Robert Downey Jr.'s plain awesome portrayal of Tony Stark. I tend to side with the supervillains in most cases, but not here. Casting Downey Jr. as Stark has been one of the most inspired casting choices in perhaps ever, and that is not only because of the cockiness and the one-liner spewing splendour that he possesses, but also because he is a fantastic actor who can act with just his face in most of his "big" scenes. Before going for this film, I saw the first two Iron Man movies and realised this. I mean yes, the iron suit is cool as hell, but we wouldn't be half as crazy about Iron Man were he not played by Downey Jr. His Tony can be both a narcissistic jerk and an emotional, caring man, sometimes at the same time. Just watch all of his scenes with the precocious kid, Harley, in this film and you will agree with me. Also he gets to do a lot without the iron suit in it and we see how he is a hero through and through. He IS Iron Man.
I have always loved Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as Pepper Potts. She is someone who is an equal to Tony, and can both reprimand him and care for him. Iron Man 3 sees her doing so better than ever. She was just incredible in this movie. I am not going to talk about what she does or what happens with her, but trust me, she is as kick-ass here as Natasha Romanoff was in The Avengers. Totally fangirling.
The rest of the impressive cast includes Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ty Simpkins and of course Sir Ben Kingsley. As I said, I just rewatched the Iron Man series and while I still have a soft spot for Terrence Howard's portrayal of Rhodes, Cheadle does a more than decent job with the character. He gets to do a lot of stunts in this film and his chemistry with Downey Jr. is excellent. I think for spoilers sake, I will not go into much detail about Pearce's and Kingsley's characters, Killian and the Mandarin respectively, except that they are both very effective antagonists to our man of iron (see what I did there?). Kingsley particularly shines after his big twist is revealed. I felt that Hall was quite wasted in this film, which is a shame because she is a very engaging actress. My favourite supporting cast member however turned out to be a child actor, Simpkins, who plays Harley. He ends up being a total match for the wit and sarcasm of Tony Stark himself and completely holds his own in all of their scenes together.
Among the returning cast members, we have Jon Favreau as Happy who very good as comic relief, especially with all the Downton Abbey-loving and Paul Bettany who voices Jarvis and I feel is a very integral member of the movies as he tends to be as much a part of the Iron Man suit as Tony. This is the first time we don't see much of S.H.I.E.L.D. though there is a tiny morsel of something related in the post-credits scene.
The story was written by the director Shane Black and Drew Pearce. As I said in the opening paragraph, it would not have been easy for them to write something that follows The Avengers but they did quite a good job, especially when it came to integrating the events of The Avengers and making Tony a much more human figure as a result. He is, after all, a man with as many problems as the rest of us, though he deals with them differently since he is a genius,
Black has done a remarkable job of directing this film. The cinema crowd that I saw the film with broke out in applause a number of times while watching the film and rightly so. It was quite a tight movie that kept us rapt and entertained throughout. Effects-wise, the "barrel of monkeys" scene and the entire last act was very impressive and even awe-inducing at times. Those of us who are Iron Man fiends will have a field day seeing ALL of the iron suits that the film, well, shows off.
Many people are calling this the best film of the trilogy. I still believe that the first one was the most perfect film of the three and remains as one of the best action movies I have ever seen. Iron Man 3 does falter in parts, with its slightly incoherent plot regarding Extremis and a rather rushed ending, but it is still leaps and bounds ahead of Iron Man 2 (which personally I don't find *that* terrible).
A true summer blockbuster with a superhero for the ages, do check out Iron Man 3 as soon as you can. I personally can't wait to see Iron Man back in The Avengers 2 now.