Iron Man 3
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Rebecca Hall
Energised by the success of last year's assembly of The Avengers, Marvel's armour-plated comic-book action hero returns to shake off the lingering disappointment of Iron Man 2.
The key cast remains, but changes are afoot behind the camera, with directing and co-writing duties passing to the former Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black, who previously directed Downey Jr in the 2005 crime comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black injects some of the same knowing humour here, lacing the film with dry quips, surreal twists and quirky jokes about Downton Abbey.
Downey Jr returns as the billionaire inventor and playboy superhero Tony Stark. Now living with his longtime sidekick Pepper Potts (Paltrow), Stark is suffering psychological aftershocks from the events of The Avengers when he unwisely takes on a Bin Laden-style super-terrorist nicknamed The Mandarin (Kingsley).
Meanwhile, Stark's rival industrialist Aldrich Killian (Pearce) is developing a genetic modification serum that can heal injuries and trigger superhuman powers, but with some very dangerous side effects.
The action set-pieces in Iron Man 3 are bigger, louder and more technologically complex than ever. A devastating demolition attack on Stark's futuristic cliff-top mansion and a mid-air hijack of the US presidential jet Air Force One are both impressive spectacles, especially Iron Man's skydiving rescue of falling passengers.
That said, the final battle between Stark and his enemies in the towering metal gantries above a docked supertanker becomes confusingly chaotic in places, a riot of deafening pyrotechnics and improbable feats of survival.
Iron Man 3 is so overstuffed with sense-pummelling action and wild plot twists, it feels like three films crammed into one. Only afterwards will your overheated brain cool down enough to question its illogical loose ends and preposterous character motivation. Black is better at brash surface noise than subtle emotional depth, but he still reboots this rocket-powered heavy-metal blockbuster franchise with a welcome blast of comic anarchy.
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