Robert Downey Jr. is back as Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 . I found his performance every bit as delightful as previous installments.

Though still witty, Tony Stark has lost some of his brashness in this movie. His encounter with aliens in  The Avengers  has left him shaken and prone to anxiety. He’s asking himself how he can make sense of life post-Avengers.

Director Shane Black had to wrestle with a similar question. I can only imagine that after seeing  The Avengers  he asked himself how am I supposed to follow  that ? In my estimation he managed to answer that question quite well.

This third installment in the Iron Man franchise matures Tony emotionally. In the first movie, Tony is a millionaire playboy, who has a life-changing experience. He rises from the dead, so to speak, in order to atone for the past and save lives. In the sequel, we find Tony still wrestling with the same demons that plagued him in the first film. He’s abusing alcohol, and he cannot break free from the party lifestyle. The second movie frustrated me because Tony was stuck in this rut. What happened to the life change?

Shane Black gave me the new Tony Stark that I had been waiting for. Tony’s given up the booze and parties. He’s in a stable relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He’s still plagued by demons, but these demons of confusion and anxiety mark a man who is wrestling with his world. He’s no longer attempting to numb himself to the pain around him.

Though I like the film’s narrative arc, it wasn’t flawlessly executed. Black recycles some of the villain’s motivation from earlier movies in the franchise. I detected a fairly large plot hole towards the end of the film, but I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to spoil anything.

The good outweighs the bad. There’s an especially beautiful scene in which Tony saves Pepper, sacrificing his own safety. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Tony Stark grow up. I think you will too.

*If you’re the kind of person who whines about too many superhero movies, then you can read my  defense of the genre  that I wrote last summer.

[Cross-posted at collingarbarino.com ]

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