In recent weeks the news has been dominated with the reporting of the passing of the Iron Lady, and now it's time for the British public to turn their attentions to the Iron Man, as we celebrate the latest instalment of the much loved Marvel franchise, with Shane Black taking the reigns from the departing Jon Favreau, teaming up with writer Drew Pearce to bring us the finest Iron Man chapter yet.
Coming off the back of Avengers Assemble, we return to the world of entrepreneur Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who appears as a mere shadow of his former self, as although complete with the self-confidence and charm that he is renowned for, he is suffering from panic attacks, evidently threatened by the chilling television broadcasts by the seemingly infallible terrorist The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley). With Stark and his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) patently at risk, it seems that Stark may just have to return to his infamous Iron Man outfit in a bid to not only take down this evil terrorist, but scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) also, who appears to be the brains behind the project.
While DC Comics have headed down a dark, somewhat sinister path for their superhero movies – with both the Batman franchise and the upcoming Man of Steel presenting a more ominous, almost pragmatic take on the genre movies. In the meantime, Marvel continue to thrive within a more animated, facetious approach, proving to be equally as triumphant, as this latest entry into the Iron Man franchise doubles up as a comedy, with a host of witty one-liners that provoke more laughter from the audience than the vast majority of the so-called comedies released.
That said, Iron Man does not lose its epic quality, as a film that makes for a remarkable cinematic experience; visually impressive with 3D being implemented as well as it ever has been. However both the big showpiece acts and the smaller, more humanistic scenes are equally as effective, as the film remains as an intimate portrayal of Stark, as the viewer is given the opportunity to feel closer to our protagonist than ever before, as his flaws are there for all to see. Downey Jr. is terrific as ever as Spark, possessing an alluring screen presence that makes him a captivating lead, while his comic timing and obnoxious nature is hilarious at points, counteracted wonderfully with that infectious charm and charisma. His apprehension towards saving the world is not only humorous but effective, as when he is antagonised to a point where he decides to do whatever he can to take down the evil forces coming up against him, it gives his actions a bit more meaning and substance.
So much of this film's success relies on the magnitude and malevolence of the villains and we feel genuinely threatened by The Mandarin, as Kingsley turns in a chilling performance. Meanwhile, Killian and his seemingly flawless army – led by the menacing Eric Savin (James Badge Dale) – seem indestructible, as you simply can't envisage a way they can be vanquished; the beauty of a true superhero movie.
Helped along by a great cast, a witty script and the incredible visual spectacle that Black has created, Iron Man 3 is yet another example of a first-class superhero movie, as a genre that seems to be flourishing in contemporary cinema. With the genre seemingly at its peak, such movies are coming out one after the other and they're simply getting better and better as we go along – and Black's first attempt is one of the very finest yet.