Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 L to R: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)PH: Zade Rosenthal

Iron Man 3 L to R: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)PH: Zade Rosenthal ? 2012 MVLFFLLC. TM & ? 2012 Marvel. All Rights Reserved. - Credit: PA

Modern superhero trilogies (Batman, X-Men, Spider-Man) adhere to a very strict pattern. The first sets up the characters and situations intriguingly and bursts with promise. The second is the perfect expression of the concept. The third is a great big overblown mess.

Iron Man harks back to a more traditional path, The Rocky arc, where the initial sequel would be a tired, lazy rerun of the first film but, if you make it past that, the third instalment would reinvigorate and revitalise the elements. Iron Man 3 is such a film, though it has a lot more to offer than Mr T and Eye Of The Tiger.

This third film is the start of a new phase for Marvel films. For five years, since the first Iron Man, Marvel has been jogging along making adequately entertaining films. Everybody was just keeping their heads down and getting by.

Then some bright spark hired a TV guy, Joss Whedon, to direct The Avengers movies and he only went and turned out a blockbuster that was by far the most accomplished thing they'd produced and made as much money as the previous five films put together.

Suddenly getting by was no longer enough. So it's just as well that new director Shane Black has given the metal man a shot of wit, vigour and invention that is the equal of Whedon's. Black has a reputation as a kind of Gordon Gekko of screenwriting: monstrously overpaid in the 1980s for writing scripts that were primarily guided tours of explosions and gun fights – a top notch arms dealer supplying some of Hollywood's biggest tyrants.

Yet no matter how glib and shallow his work, it was never condescending. It didn't assume you were a fool just because you enjoyed foolish things. He wrote the smartest stupid films around.

Which makes him an ideal choice for a comic book movie. His Iron Man is roaringly funny, marrying a jaundiced worldview with a giddy delight at its comic book frivolity.

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It addresses the war on terror while simultaneously offering an escape from it. It is spectacular, too. There's an airborne sequence after an attack on Air Force One that is as breathtaking as any I've seen.

Quibbles? Well, ultimately, it is more a Tony Stark than Iron Man movie. Also, the final action sequence is over-convoluted and unfocussed, throwing elements at you as if it were a last-ditch attempt to make amends for being driven more by character and plot than action.

But, overall, it's a blast.

IRON MAN 3 (12A)

Director: Shane Black

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley

Length: 130 mins