Tony Stark and Iron Man is back, and after the misstep/retread that was Iron Man 2, in much better form.

I will note now: I will get spoiler-ific, though I’ll keep it separate from the actual review.  There will be a line separating the two sections.  Though, $175 million open weekend?  You should have seen it by now at least.

As for the review?  Well, Tony Stark, facing anxiety from the events in Avengers, is trying harder than before in keeping himself (and others around him, like Pepper Potts) protected.  The Mark 42 suit, for example, is a suit constructed of individual pieces and controlled by small receivers embedded in Stark’s arms.  He runs into trouble though when unexpected demons from his past show up, along with the terrorist known as the Mandarin.

Iron Man 3 is a much better film than the second one was, simply by not rehashing everything from the first film (climactic battle against bigger badder suit? check).  It keeps away from all of the Avengers stuff too, and that I feel is a good thing.  Iron Man 2 suffered a bit as well from trying to connect Iron Man to the whole Avengers universe.  The singular focus helps in a good way.  It’s not as tight as the first film – it feels looser, and some scenes don’t connect well – but it’s still well filmed, especially with the big action pieces that occur (Tony’s mansion, Air Force One, and the harbor sequence at the end).

Everyone that returns from the previous film is good. Downey Jr is impeccable as Tony Stark, as always.  Gwyneth Paltrow is great and is given a lot more to do, which is awesome (though being the damsel-in-distress for a moment again is wearing thin).  Don Cheadle is back as Col. Rhodes/War Machine (or, jokingly, the Iron Patriot) and has some good scenes as well.  The several new cast additions were all good as well, to a varying degree: Guy Pierce is good as Aldrich Killian, the founder of AIM and the creator of the Extremis virus, which acts as one of the plot catalysts; Rebecca Hall plays Dr Maya Hansen well, though I was confused at times with her motivations; and Ben Kingsley is the Mandarin, and part of the spoiler discussion coming.

All in all, this is a good, solid film.  Better than the second film, and a natural progression for Tony Stark/Iron Man to take.

There are two bits of spoiler stuff I want to discuss, both good: the post-credits sequence and the Mandarin.

The post-credits sequence, with Bruce Banner as a “psychologist” to Tony Stark, is pretty funny and works well. The one thing I was particularly glad to see what that they didn’t advance any sort of Avengers plot. What I’m guessing is that the Avengers stuff will be limited to post Thor (given how galactic that one will be), if they do that, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The latter seems the more natural fit, since that film will transition into Avengers 2, if they’re going to do the Thanos route with it.

The Mandarin reveal was interesting, and a welcomed change of pace from the norm. Yes, he’s Asian in the comics apparently, but terrorists from anywhere in Asia has been done to death in movies. Making him a drunk British stage actor named Travis is a bold, brilliant move that works, especially in the movie: have someone act as your face while you cause all the mayhem in the background. It’s a clever bit of misdirection. Though, Killian as the main villain was hard to say. I didn’t mind too much, though I’ve heard both positive and negative reactions to him.

There’s also this piece over on Badass Digest that pretty much says that no one saw the Mandarin reveal coming, since Marvel didn’t hype it up. There’s the comparison to JJ Abrams and Star Trek regarding Schroedinger’s Khan as well, though I might have different problems with the film besides that. I won’t voice them until I see the film though, if those criticisms do apply.

So one speculation and one awesome reveal. Dicussions?