Iron Man 3 (2013) — Why yes, I am catching up on all the superhero movies that passed me by. IM3 pulls back away from the disjointed narrative direction of the second one and gives us a focused story which concentrates, rightly, on Tony Stark rather than Iron Man. Of special note is the PTSD Tony’s suffering from the events at the end of The Avengers; it’s good to see superheroes who don’t brush off near-death/post-death experiences as “all in a day’s work, ma’am.” The only thing wrong is that the exciting finale leads one to muse, If he could do that, then why hadn’t he already SHUT UP THAT’S WHY.
X-Men: First Class (2011) — The most common problem with sequels is that the end is known from the beginning — more so than in a typical movie, in which, say, one can guess that the hero wins; here, you often know what the status quo is supposed to be at the end of the movie, so everything in the narrative is compared against that inviolable snapshot. And this movie has its own problems, too — like the fact that, despite the title, the movies only really about the “first class” of X-Men or the last twenty minutes; up to then, it’s about the friendship/enemyship of Magneto and Charles Xavier, who apparently can’t do anything psychic without pressing on his temple.