Tying up the trilogy, and picking up soon after the events depicted in last year’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3 is arguably the best instalment in the Marvel superhero series, with new director Shane Black – who also co-wrote the script with Drew Pearce – bringing his own trademark mix of dark humour and harsh realism to an already well-oiled and successful machine.
Suffering from PTSD as a result of the alien invasion in New York, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) throws himself into his work, much to the annoyance of his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). However, when America comes under attack from The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Stark must confront his demons – and old enemies – in a bid to stop the spread of a deadly new technology.
Following up a worldwide smash is a tough feat, but it’s something that Black handles with confidence and skill to spare. Not only does Iron Man 3 make up for the misfire that was Iron Man 2, but it manages to engage and excite in equal measures. It may take a while to kick in action, but once it does nothing is spared in delivering wit, momentum and full-scale spectacle.
The narrative is cemented in reality, and the threat is very much in keeping with what’s happening in the world today, which helps turn this superhero story into one that feels entirely authentic. It helps, too, that Black and Pearce have factored in Stark’s relationship with Pepper so heavily (the chemistry and comic interplay between Downey Jr. and Paltrow has never been this fun to watch).
It’s yet another aspect that highlights the edge Iron Man 3 has over its contemporaries and the energy newcomers Black and Pearce have injected into the series. That energy can be seen elsewhere, too, namely in the action sequences, which are top-notch considering Black’s only other directorial offering came in the form of an overlooked noir comedy-thriller that contained very little action.
There are minor problems to note – supporting cast members Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall as Adrian Killian and Maya Hansen, respectively, are impeded by their underwritten roles and the constant back-and-forth wisecracking proves too much at times – but when it has so much to offer, and one hell of an unexpected twist, Iron Man 3 more than does the trick.