Iron Man 3 review

The superhero summer starts here, with lots 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 last year's blockbuster The Avengers. And after the so-so Iron Man 2, this second sequel gets things nicely back on track.

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.

Iron Man 3 at IMDb

Iron Man 3 Podcast

Iron Man 3 Interview: Drew Pearce

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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