REVIEW: Iron Man 3 (12a)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall.

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We’re in ‘Phase 2’, people! Yes, the series of films that lead up to the first ‘Avengers’ team up last year are considered ‘The Marvel Universe: Phase One’, and now we begin a new string of movies that pave the way for the second team up in 2015. So, what can we expect from the first ‘Phase 2’ movie, as Robert Downey Jr suits up for the fourth time in ‘Iron Man 3’?

In the aftermath of the attack on Earth in ‘Avengers’, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself deeply traumatised and unable to sleep, fearful that this new life will lead him to lose that which he loves the most- his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). This fear becomes reality when a face from the past (Guy Pearce) and an international terrorist known as The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) both try to destroy everything he holds dear, but can Stark overcome his demons and save the world once again?

The action’s here, the effects are here, there’s less characters and less ‘Avengers’ plugs than the so-so ‘Iron Man 2’, so why does this feel like a step back? Well, because while everything that was wrong with the second film has been stripped away, it’s been replaced with very little. There are hardly any ‘Avengers’ references bar acknowledgement that it happened (although that may be handled in any planned ‘post-credits’ scenes, which were not screened to critics).

New director Shane Black made his name writing the ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies, and it shows in his direction, as this is almost an action-comedy. Jokes are crammed in, quite often in appropriate places, and the film’s dock-based finale looks almost directly ripped from the 80’s franchise. With all the jokes, fire breathing villains, and grandstanding CGI-drenched action, you’ll never be bored, but you’ll never be gripped either. Downey Jr. can do Tony Stark in his sleep- motor mouth dialogue, stylish entrances, and the volumes of quips given by writers Black and Drew Pearce are all executed with aplomb. There is a hint of tiredness to his approach, but if you can’t get enough of the bearded marvel then there’s plenty to feast on.

The support cast is a bit patchy- Paltrow and Don Cheadle have plenty to do as Potts and ‘The Iron Patriot’, but none of it feels that important. Pearce is classy as villainous businessman Aldrich Killian, while Ben Kingsley is involved in a big twist that you will either love or hate (we hated it). An interesting but underused addition is Rebecca Hall, sparking perfect chemistry with Downey on-screen as an old flame of Stark’s.

A different take on the character, which to some will be perfectly enjoyable, brash summer fun. The overload of comedy, however, combined with the feeling that Disney is running out of ideas for Stark (given the family-friendly company is so hesitant to pursue the alcoholism comic plotline) means this is not the grandstand start to ‘Phase Two’ that many had hoped for.