One of the things that Marvel has done so well with their series of movies has been to keep the characters true to their comic book origins. I say Marvel in the sense of the movies that Marvel has done, not in the sense of all of their characters (because, if you look at what Fox did to Wolverine and will be doing to him again this summer, you will find that non-Marvel companies have not handled the characters quite so faithfully). With that in mind, I was looking very forward to the Mandarin as the villain in Iron Man Three.
The Mandarin, for all intents and purposes, is Iron Man's nemesis. He pre-dates the Iron Man comic book just as Iron Man does [Iron Man made his first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39, the Mandarin in issue #50], so I was expecting something... well, I was expecting something epic. Iron Man's greatest foe and all of that. That is not even close to what Marvel delivered with this movie, and I can't say more than that without offering spoilers. Let's just say that I was... disappointed with the Mandarin, especially given that it was Ben Kingsley. Not that Kingsley didn't do a great job; he did. I mean, he was fantastic in the role that they wrote for him; it just wasn't the role I wanted to see him in.
Here's the thing, for most of you out there, the vast most of you, the most of you that didn't spend more than a decade reading Iron Man comic books, there will be no issue with the role of the Mandarin at all. See, it works great in the movie. Which is what causes my divergence of opinion. On the one hand, I'm disappointed with the portrayal of the Mandarin, but, on the other, Iron Man Three was completely enjoyable to watch and has a lot going for it. In my head, I know that the continuity that the Marvel movies is setting up is not the same as it is in the comics, but that doesn't change my emotional reaction to it. The "why did they change that?" reaction.
Of course, it's comic books, and, maybe, they didn't change anything. It is conceivable that the Mandarin will still become who and what he is in a later movie. Or, maybe, he's that, now, but they're just hiding it.
As for the movie itself, it was quite good. Robert Downey, Jr. was amazing as always. It's a more personal movie than the previous two in a lot of ways. Tony is dealing with... issues, mostly brought on by his experiences in New York during the alien invasion in The Avengers. For much of the movie, he's effectively alone without any armor, and it was interesting to see Tony operating as a person rather than an iron man. Downey pulled that off with what appeared to be effortless ease.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle were respectable in their roles. Even Guy Pearce was adequate. Okay, probably more than adequate, but I really don't like the guy, so, when he plays a villain, he gets an automatic boost from me in that regard, so I actually have a difficult time in telling whether he's doing a good job or not, because I'm not going to like him anyway. I'll know that he can actually act if he ever bothers to play a good guy and he can make me like him. And, as I stated, Ben Kingsley was amazing. He really was.
Iron Man Three is slightly different in structure than the other two. It starts with an opening narration, and I don't tend to be fond of narration in movies. Of course, it ties in with the way the movie ends, which almost makes it worth it, but not quite. It also starts and, then, jumps back, which I'm also not fond of, but, at least, it didn't do a "three days earlier" or anything like that.
Also, the CGI is a bit... clunky... in this one. I didn't know why until I got home and looked it up: ILM did not do the effects on this one. Now, that is something I completely don't understand. ILM did the effects for both other Iron Man movies and The Avengers, so why switch when Disney owns ILM, now? And Iron Man. If it was that they (ILM) were too busy with the new Star Wars, I could understand, but they have at least half a dozen films coming out this year that they're doing the effects for, so having someone else do this Iron Man seems odd to me. Oh, well, I'm sure it was cheaper. It's always about the money, right?
So, yeah, as a movie, I liked it. It's great, in fact. But that doesn't stop me from being ambivalent.