The action packed third installment of the Iron Man franchise is set to be the highest grossing yet. Directed by Shane Black of Kiss Kiss Bang, which also starred Robert Downy Jr., Iron Man 3 opened number one at the UK box office in its first weekend.

Brimming with references to last year’s hit The Avengers, industrialist-turned-superhero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is struggling with anxiety attacks following the alien invasion of New York. Add to this the rise of a forbidding terrorist aggressor, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and Stark certainly has his work cut out.

When a bomb injures Stark’s long time security officer, Hogan (Jon Favreau), Stark declares a spell of ‘good old-fashioned revenge’ on The Mandarin, stumbling onto a science inspired US domination plan that has a good share of twists and turns.

Having thrust himself into working on a range of new remote controlled suits since The Avengers, Stark’s relationship with love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is under pressure. Enter handsome but unbalanced scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) for a nice spattering of tension. Fans of the franchise will welcome a juicier role for Stark’s sidekick lover in this third installment as Pepper gets her own share of the action.

Hollywood’s terrorism angle is beginning to feel a tad overused and genetically engineered super soldiers are no stranger to the big screen, but writers Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and Drew Pearce weld these concepts into an exciting, if absurd, plot. A smattering of deliberate misleads feels cheap but strangely satisfying, while a stunning performance from Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin gives us a riveting villain.

The Iron Man franchise has its own brand of dry remarks and spoof-like humour and Iron Man 3 does not deviate from this trademark style. Comic book flair comes in the form of sparingly used but blatant screen wipe editing transitions and attempts to root Iron Man in the real world include a bizarre clip of Fashion Police’s Joan Rivers commenting on the red and blue look of the Stark designed Iron Patriot. As usual, Stark frequently spews with sarcastic and wry quips and his character’s arrogant personality is regularly on display. Robert Downey Jr’s obnoxious character whose charms are a little too hidden, remains an acquired taste. Yet the addition of a child sidekick (Ty Simpkins) in this installment’s second act injects a neat undercurrent of sentimentality.

“A smattering of deliberate misleads feels cheap but strangely satisfying”

Big action set pieces bookend the plot from the destruction of Stark Enterprises showcased in the movie’s trailer, to an explosive final showdown. Less elaborate, but equally exciting, action sequences load the film with energy from cat and mouse pursuits to a plane hijacking. As with previous installments, the action remains plagued by odd and awkward in-mask face shots but, here, these are kept to a minimum.

Iron Man 3 doesn’t live up to previous offerings from the franchise but does provide plenty of plot and character development that fans will appreciate. In true comic book style, belief systems are best left suspended at home as Iron Man 3’s elaborate action sequences and absurd plot play heavily into this action adventure genre.

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩  3/5

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