Movie series that spin out of control are generally groan-worthy, no matter how much you like the original film or enjoy its subsequent sequels. I, for one, love watching Captain Jack Sparrow and his antics, but when I heard about the fourth film I wanted to beat my head against the wall.
The Iron Man series, though, doesn’t seem to follow the rules of other franchises. Iron Man is generally agreed to be the best of the films leading up to Marvel’s Avengers, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the titular character. The film has brought attention to the original comic series and has been wildly successful in drawing new fans to the franchise, along with the other comic series that have been adapted into films in the Marvel universe.
Iron Man 3, which opens next Friday, promises a solid continuation of the Iron Man franchise while changing it up enough to keep the interest fresh. It’s a direct sequel to Iron Man 2 and takes place after The Avengers. This promises impressive character development for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, a daring move given how his earlier portrayals appeal to comic aficionados and the uninitiated alike. Jon Favreau, director of the previous two Iron Man films did not return for the third film; the keys were handed to Shane Black and Drew Pearce.
The antagonist is the best-known villain from the comic series, Mandarin, though not necessarily how we may have experienced him before in the comics (inspiring a fair amount of controversy). In the comic books, Mandarin was the son of the wealthiest man in pre-revolutionary China. His parents died when he was young and all of his father’s fortune was spent in science and martial arts, leaving him broke by adulthood and the perfect antagonist to the billionaire playboy Tony Stark. Ben Kingsley plays the film rendition of Mandarin—a Sun Tzu-obsessed villain whose ethnic background is left unclear. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Stark’s girlfriend Pepper Potts, and the trailers have hinted that she is in the action sequences, giving the film a female protagonist that younger female audiences are sure to appreciate.
Whether or not you’ve read the comics, Iron Man is a superhero movie and promises action, action and more action. It’s a Marvel film, which promises a ridiculously high production value and excellent special effects. The critics have praised it highly thus far, rating it just slightly below the original but significantly better than the second according to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It should be a good kickoff to the summer blockbuster season (Star Trek: Into Darkness, anyone?) and, more long-term, the flurry of Marvel sequels to come over the next couple of years that includes a slate of Thor, Captain America and Avengers follow-ups.