Best ending ever. The “freeing of Tony Stark” as all the suits explode is emotionally resonant and just wonderful. To all the people who are complaining that “he blew up all his suits” — you are totally missing the entire point of the movie.
Tony can always build more suits. His problem was that, traumatized and emotionally scarred (and Tony, despite all his surface ego and bravado, has always been emotionally needy and unsure of himself — factors that Downey’s performance has always showcased…), Tony was hiding behind the suits, making suit after suit, more comfortable as a tinker/mechanic than as a superhero or a true loving partner to Pepper. The Clean Slate Protocol — which, touchingly, he had obviously built in to potentially use someday — is a gesture of great personal courage. He has learned, through that vast swathe of “Iron Man 3” storyline where he’s deprived of his suits, or his suits don’t come through for him, that HE is Iron Man. “You Know Who I Am” — his “egotistical” nametag in Bern — becomes an ironic metaphor for the entire movie, which is ABOUT “who is Iron Man — does the suit really make the man?”
And the answer is no. Tony, himself, without the suits, IS Iron Man. It’s his bravery, his willingness to lean from his mistakes, his brains, his creativity, his adaptability and his humanity that are Iron Man/Tony Stark, for they are one and the same. The suits without the man in them are JUST suits — they are expendable, they can be built again, they can be blown up at will. And the arc reactor is not Iron Man, either, by the way - it, too, is expendable, and by ridding himself of it he rids himself of another crutch.
This is why I loved “Iron Man 3” and thought it was the best of the three Iron Man movies, or at least equal to “Iron Man” the first. It really tells the story of a hero who grows and learns something important about himself through the course of the movie. It proves again that Tony Stark/Iron Man is the most human of superheroes, which is, of course, why so many of us love him.
And if there ever were Oscars that fairly considered superhero movies and other genre fare, RDJ’s amazing, complex, touching and human portrayal of Tony Stark would have won something by now — it’s twice the performance of many actors who actually have won the award. Just sayin’.