After the narrative train wreck that was Iron Man 2, I was curious where the story would take us with inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) in the Marvel universe. Last time he was on screen was the terrific The Avengers, where his sarcasm and narcissism was balanced by having other characters share the screen, but in Iron Man 3, it's all about Tony.
Or is it?
Turns out that when James "Rhodie" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) donned the Iron Man suit on behalf of the US military in Iron Man 2, it was a harbinger of a big, albeit inevitable story twist, where the Iron Man suit and Tony Stark become independent characters. Indeed, in this third outing there are dozens of suits and all sorts of characters get to be inside them, even the President (William Sadler).
Rhodie gets his own "War Machine" suit painted a patriotic red, white and blue, Tony's faithful partner Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) ends up wearing a "mark 46" prototype whose pieces can fly and wrap itself around a persons body in mid-jump, and of course the bad guys have suits of their own.
Which leaves a critical question: What's more interesting, the suit or Tony Stark?
Iron Man 3 is definitely better than the second film in the series, but with so many suits flying around -- and a finale that features twenty or more autonomous, "Jarvis" (voice of Paul Bettany) computer controlled suits -- the message is clearly that Stark himself is obsolete and that it's the Iron Man suits that are important. Which leaves us with nowhere to go narratively. I surmise that the filmmakers are aware of this problem because the closing credits includes the teaser "Tony Stark will be back", presumably in the Avengers sequel. But will Tony Stark be inside that metal suit?