Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, Warren Ellis, Adi Granov, Drew Pearce, and Shane Black, 2013
To recap, since it has somehow been three and a half years since my previous article about the Iron Man movies: I think Iron Man is the best superhero movie I've ever seen, and Iron Man 2 is a campy mess. I'd heard that Iron Man Three — yes, they spell out the number for some reason — was closer to the first one than the second. Yeah, not so much. It is better than the second one, and there are some good jokes and good line readings. But ultimately Iron Man Three is just an empty, rambling action movie without the storytelling chops that made the first one such an outlier in the genre. To the extent that there even is a storyline amid the explosions and dull villains, I gather that it's supposed to be that Tony Stark has come down with post-traumatic anxiety after suffering through the events of the Avengers movie — and didn't we all, really? — and has been dealing with it by building new Iron Man suits to distract himself. This leads to a sequence featuring one of the classic Iron Man tropes — "How is Tony Stark a superhero without the armor? Oh yeah, he's the world's greatest inventor so he can probably MacGyver some stuff" — but that struck me as less a product of wanting to explore the character than of the filmmakers wanting to feature more of their star actor and less of a CGI contraption with an inexpressive faceplate. (Like the 2012 Spider-Man movie, it was a reminder that comics impart emotions to masked characters in ways that wouldn't work in movies.) But all of this is set up in perfunctory fashion and could hardly be more of an afterthought. The actual storyline of Iron Man Three is the same as Amy Chilton's account of her job at the purple factory: "It started off explodey… and then it got explodier!"