The Avengers Iron Man Three
dir Shane Black
prd Kevin Feige
scr Drew Pearce, Shane Black
with Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Ty Simpkins, Dale Dickey, Jon Favreau
release UK 24.Apr.13, US 3.May.13
13/US Marvel 2h10
Iron Man Three
Under attack: Paltrow and Downey

cheadle pearce kingsley
Iron Man (2008) Iron Man 2 (2010)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Iron Man Three Director-cowriter Black injects new life into this franchise, reteaming with Downey to continue the humorous edge while grounding the action scenes much more in the human interaction. Best of all, there are no more robot-vs-robot battles, and the film is even more spectacular and exciting as a result.

After teaming with the Avengers to fight off that alien invasion, zillionaire military contractor Tony Stark (Downey) is struggling to get his mind off work, which is deeply annoying to his girlfriend-partner Pepper (Paltrow). Meanwhile, a menacing mystery man who calls himself The Mandarin (Kingsley) is terrorising America with vicious bombings he calls a "season of terror". Then two faces from Tony and Pepper's past pay a visit: bio-scientist Maya (Hall) and technical genius Aldrich (Pearce). And suddenly The Mandarin has Tony himself in his sites.

The film's pace is fairly relentless. It pauses to catch its breath with scenes involving interpersonal tension, comical banter and technical mumbo jumbo, then rockets off again into another staggering set-piece that pushes the story in a new direction. There isn't a wasted moment, as even Tony's constant taunting of everyone he meets (including helpful pre-teen Simpkins) feeds into the narrative. And The Mandarin's self-healing goons (Dale and Szostak) are much more interesting than the mindless evil thugs we normally get in these films.

Of course, Downey's continual off-the-cuff humour keeps us chucking, sometimes eliciting a huge laugh with another throwaway line. But it's genuinely witty dialog, not mere comical barbs. And his scenes with Paltrow and Cheadle (as his more-patriotic metal-suited colleague) snap with pointed gags that are even more character-based than before. All of the main characters have intriguing layers of interest, most notably Kingsley, who very nearly steals the whole film with a brilliantly cheeky performance.

But it's the way Black is able to deploy mammoth spectacle while keeping everything extremely personal that makes the film much more engaging than expected. There are at least three huge show-stopping sequences that take our breath away, and yet the hardware and gadgetry is never the focus: they're just tools these people use. Even the now-requisite 3D doesn't get in the way. And frequently separating Downey from his suit is the best idea the filmmakers could have come up with.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 17.Apr.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall