Iron Man is definitely one of Marvel’s most enjoyable and light-hearted series, with Robert Downey Jr’s turn as Tony Stark bringing quick quips, sharp wit and dry jokes to a genre that has a tendency to take itself too seriously (not necessarily a bad thing as Nolan proved!). It started strong with a brilliant opener to the franchise, derailed slightly with the second outing, but is now well and truly back on track with this raucously entertaining third outing. Perhaps the key ingredient to Iron man 3 was having Shane Black at the helm – something of a geek favourite, Black has Lethal Weapon and the ubiquitously talked-about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on his list, as well as being one of Dutch’s unit on Predator. You can see why he’s a fan fave. His sharp script and punchy plot never fails to surprise and keeps us guessing with it's neat little twists, yet still, it never becomes too clever for its own good, and remains firmly in the realm of ‘popcorn blockbuster’.
This time we see Tony suffering from insomnia and anxiety following the exhaustion of saving Earth from space aliens in New York – a reminder that all Marvel takes place in the same universe – as occurred in Avengers Assemble. When at his most fragile, Stark comes head to head with an old acquaintance and now competitor, Aldrich Killian, who is looking for investment in a new technology called Extremis. However, it ain't long before the Iron Man has even bigger fish to fry as he goes up against world-renowned terrorist, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley on usual superb form), and everything isn't quite as it seems. Like Black’s previous work, this has kept the gritty dialogue (‘Dad’s leave, there’s no need to be a pussy about it’), laugh-out-loud jokes, action-packed set pieces and a constant undercurrent of threat to keep some kind of tension (possibly the most lacking aspect of any blockbuster).
The end result is rather brilliant, and although it doesn’t quite match up to the Dark Knight trilogy (Batman is a personal favourite character) and Watchmen, it was as good as Avengers Assemble for sheer entertainment, and after this, Shane Black will certainly be competing with Joss Whedon for most fan-geek adoration. But more than just Black, this is really Downey Jr’s franchise, and his delivery of Tony Stark/Iron Man is pitch-perfect casting; he is Iron Man. 4/5