The best thing about the Iron Man series is that the superhero enjoys being a superhero; there's no internal lamenting or weighing up the cost of being a hero against just being a normal person, a la Spiderman or Batman. Iron Man is an out and proud superhero. Unfortunately though, thus far he's been barely differentiable from his sidekicks and bad guys with everyone seeming to be just a variation on 'A Man in a Metal Suit'. This was the major problem faced by Iron Man 2, aside from being nothing more than a jumping-off point for the rest of The Avengers to start assembling. Thankfully, the threequel side-steps this problem by bringing things back to basics.
Suffering from PTSD-ish panic attacks, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is finding it difficult to sleep due to nightmares of the intergalactic attack on Manhattan that almost killed him. His missus Pepper Potts (Gwyenth Paltrow) is understandably concerned, but she finds herself distracted by the return of Killian Aldrich (Guy Pearce), a biogenetics genius who may be on the verge of something world-changing. Meanwhile The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), a very bad man of a wisely non-specific origin, is blowing up small parts of America, and the President has assigned Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in the newly revamped War Machine/Iron Patriot suit to hunt him down.
After last year's 'The Avengers' introduced aliens and Gods into Tony Stark's world, writer/director Shane Black reigns in the scope by pitting Stark against a much more terrifying and topical bad guy; a modern day terrorist. By not trying to compete with some of the world-destroying villains that have gone before, Iron Man 3 allows the characters, along with the superb dialogue, to shine through. Tasked with some proper acting, Downey Jnr does more here than just rehash his billionaire genius playboy philanthropist for the fourth time. While not as consistently funny with the one-liners as we've previously seen, he is given some fantastic two-handers with a very young inventor.
Considering this is a $200 million summer blockbuster, the first 90 minutes are surprisingly light on action. Save for a helicopter attack on Stark's mansion, most of the first two thirds of the movie has Tony out of his suit, investigating into the background of The Mandarin. When the action does get going, it comes thick and fast, culminating in an almost relentless final 40 minutes. Be sure to stay ‘til the VERY end for the now-mandatory post-credits scene.
Iron Man 3 is the best of the standalone-Stark tales to date, but falls just short of the giddy highs of Avenger's Assemble. Bring on Thor 2 this November!