louferrigno’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here we go: Phase Two. A post-Avengers era and starting things off with a sorta-conclusion towards Tony Stark's character arc his first two films established. After the events in New York results in Stark having to face PTSD issues, caused by not only nearly facing imminent death and the cumulative knowledge and facing off against Gods, aliens, and other dimensions that is a far cry from the down-to-earth terrorists and megalomaniac copycats we saw in his first two adventures. This is a film that focuses more on Stark changing as a person, and scaling back its action as an almost awareness that trying to go big and loud after The Avengers would seem futile (though what action is impressive, if only for pacing itself). Iron Man 3 manages to satisfy me immensely, even after my more blasé reaction to the first two (and puts me at three to three for blistering hot takes on this subseries (I swear I'm not doing this on purpose)).
After Jon Favreau turned down the offer the direct this installment, in favor of a project based on the Magic Kingdom (we're waiting), a new director was needed to fill in his shoes. Enter Shane Black, a writer mostly known for his scripts filled with deadpan wit and heroes who seem to know the cliches of action films all too well. Black made his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and elements of that show with not only Downey narrating each film, but also for the humanist aspects that cause the characters to drive the film and let the action be a helpful compliment (also Christmas). When we do see the action setpieces devised by Black, they are some of the most impressive I've seen out of the series yet, like Stark's house being attacked and blown up (you tell me, what other film has a helicopter taken down by a piano) or the skydiving maneuver Tony devises to save thirteen lives (doubly impressive knowing an actual skydiving team was used for this sequence). It's all creative and managed to thoroughly engage me, keeping me excited towards how each scene would progress and caught off-guard when Black would pull the rug from under me, usually for the sake of a gag.
All of that would probably makes this one of the better MCU films for me, but that is only accentuated by Black and Drew Pearce's script. Divorcing itself from the exuberant dumb of Iron Man 2 by playing up wit, twists in its narrative and conventions, and the real-life consequences of everything Tony has gone through in three films he's been a major player in so far. He has become an insomniac rapidly developing prototype suits just to keep the anxiety attacks that we see Tony plagued with at bay, and this has caused a strain on his relationship with Pepper Potts. It's a situation that plagues Tony and makes him consider what he is without the suit, if anything at all (the closing line implying that the myth will live, even when discarding physical proof for the sake of proving loyalty towards the person Tony loves the most (asides from himself, though even then this film presents debate to his narcissism now)).
A lot of people were divided on Iron Man 3, with some calling it a dull insult to the mythology of the character and some championing it as a masterwork of action cinema to stick it to the haters (ain't gonna go that far). A big part of that lies with the Mandarin twist, something that a lot of people called out as wasted potential and the one thing people talk about when referring to this film (even though, again, there's a really, really good skydiving sequence here guys). To be honest, I kinda love the extreme contrast of the character pre-/post-twist and how it stands for something more sinister and emblematic of a greater evil (even knowing that, yeah of course a person closer to Tony's past is gonna be the big bad and not some intermittently-seen threat (didn't we already do this in the first film? Aw, whatever)). To me, though, it's the perfect representation of Black taking risks and playing along with the rules set by Marvel, to create something unpredictable and gripping, fitting for the journey Stark has gone through so far. I'm starting the phase strong (much to the ire of some), and managed to accomplish something I was hoping to do on this venture through the MCU so soon: Finding a great film. Now let's see what's next...:
Oh. Thor: The Dark World is next.