This latest superhero slugfest has loads of whams, plenty of bams and, yes, even a besuited ma'am. It's the fourth outing in the steel suit for Downey Jr, although the third Iron Man film proper. And it continues the run of terrific films that are coming from the Marvel stable, following on nicely from 2012's blockbuster The Avengers.
The events that we saw in The Avengers – the alien invasion of New York, with the help of Thor's nasty brother, Loki – have taken their toll on Tony Stark. He's not sleeping well, spending most of his time in his hi-tech workshop, and he's suffering from panic attacks. Lovely assistant Pepper (Paltrow) has moved in with Tony, and taken over the day-to-day running of Stark Industries. His life doesn't get any easier when two new villains come onto the scene - The Mandarin (Kingsley), the head of a global terrorist organisation, and Aldrich Killian (Pearce), a geneticist who harbours a terrible (and somewhat explosive) secret. And with Stark's buddy Colonel James Rhodes (Cheadle) now suited up as the Iron Patriot, the stage is set for a showdown-and-a-half.
This is the first Iron Man film for writer-director Black – his first film as director since 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, also starring Downey Jr – and he makes the material his own. There's never a dull moment here, although we don't see as much of Stark in the suit this time (although we do see plenty of "Iron Men" in action). It's very much a Tony Stark film, all about how he deals with his emotional traumas and regains his Iron Man-ness, if you will. The supporting cast all get lots to do, but unlike a lot of superhero sequels, this doesn't feel overcrowded in the slightest. Cheadle, Hall and Pearce all acquit themselves brilliantly, but it has to be said that it's Kingsley who steals the show – his Mandarin is one of the best big-screen villains we've seen in quite a while. Black (who wrote the first Lethal Weapon film) and co-writer Pearce also manage to get in plenty of laughs among the carnage, with some great gags involving the TV show Downton Abbey.
Iron Man 3 is a superhero film, to be sure, but it's also a smart and witty human drama. There's loads of action, a decent storyline and terrific performances from the cast, who all appear to be enjoying themselves immensely. Downey Jr has hinted that The Avengers 2 may be his last time donning the metal red and gold suit, which would be a shame because nobody fills Tony Stark's shoes as well as he does.
3D QUALITY ★★★★ It will come as no surprise to learn that the 3D is just as good on Blu-ray as it was in the cinema. OK, the 3D is not really needed for this film, but it certainly doesn't hurt it (although I am yet to see it in 2D). The scenes that work best in 3D are the destruction of Tony's Malibu mansion, and the finale with ALL the suits. Overall, though, the 3D works pretty well (depending, of course, on your TV and 3D setup).
EXTRAS ★★★★ A pretty decent package all round. The first disc just has the 3D version of the film. The second has the 2d version of the film, plus all the bonus material: an audio commentary by director/writer Black and co-writer Pearce; the terrific marvel One Shot short film, Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell and Bradley Whitford (15:29), which takes place a year after the events of the first Captain America film; 10 deleted and extended scenes (16:20); a gag reel (5:07); and three behind-the-scenes featurettes – Iron Man 3 Unmasked (10:59), Deconstructing The Scene: Attack on Air Force One (8:43), and a look at Thor: The Dark World (1:53). Marvellous stuff.