The latest installment in the Iron Man franchise follows up on the Avengers—and, with its terrorist themes, arrives at an uncomfortable time, critics note. Wonders Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: "Had we really congregated in this place to savor the spectacle of bodies being flung around by the machinations of an evil plan?" As for the film itself:
- It's got "an uncommon zest and zip," writes Lane, along with a twist that "signals both the making of Iron Man 3 and, with any luck, the possible unmaking of the genre. From here on, the dumb-ass grandeur around which superhero plots revolve can no longer be taken on trust."
- In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis isn't particularly impressed. The movie, "despite the needless addition of 3D and negligible differences in quips, gadgets, villains, and the type of stuff blown up, plays out much like the first two movies." As for Robert Downey Jr., "the role has gradually, maybe inexorably, swallowed him. He no longer necessarily does—and probably isn't asked to do—the hard work of a real performance."
- Kenneth Turan calls the movie a "spiritual reboot" of the franchise in the Los Angeles Times. It "does tend to fall back on massive explosions and action set pieces as the conclusion nears. But by even posing questions of identity, the film creates the kind of jeopardy we can believe in, and for a superhero movie, that is an accomplishment in and of itself."
- In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday writes that the film "seems designed less as an artisanal object or visual entertainment than a full-body assault on the senses," she writes. It's "a frantic, occasionally funny, finally enervating bricolage of special effects, explosive set pieces, sardonic one-liners and notional human emotions."