Changing the writer and director for this third Iron Man movie turns out to be the best thing that could have happened, because Shane Black is a much more focussed filmmaker, and he gives this franchise a badly needed kick. We know that he and Downey work well together (see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), but we could never have anticipated how Black would bring clarity to Downey's comical riffs. He also makes the action scenes much more human, and therefore a lot more thrilling.
The story takes place in the overall Marvel chronology. Wealthy arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Downey) is feeling badly shaken by his experience working with the Avengers to fight off an alien invasion. So he dives into his work and neglects his relationship with Pepper (Paltrow), who also runs his company. Then two faces from the past reappear: bio-scientist Maya (Hall) is an old colleague of Tony's, while technical genius Aldrich (Pearce) has a past with Pepper. And both seem somehow connected to a wave of nasty bombings that is terrorising America, masterminded by a menacing man who calls himself the Mandarin (Kingsley). And the Mandarin's next target is Tony.
Intriguingly, the script keeps Tony out of the Iron Man suit for much of the film's running time, which makes his character feel much more grounded than ever before. It also makes the action set pieces even more spectacular, since they're not mere robot-vs-robot animated battles. So even if the dialog is peppered with technical gibberish, at least it has a personal dimension. Which not only deepens Tony and Pepper as characters, but makes the surrounding people more interesting. These include Tony's old pal (Cheadle), two self-healing goons (Dale and Szostak) and a pre-teen (Simpkins) who helps Tony. And with his constantly surprising character, Kingsley very nearly steals the show.
Continue reading: Iron Man 3 Review