Iron Man 3 features a Christmas setting, a struggling protagonist caught in strange team-ups, two heroes sneaking into a dock for an action set piece, bursts of narration, and a consistent sarcastic streak. Essentially, just as Joss Whedon’s distinct storytelling voice was recognisable in Avengers Assemble, so too is that of Iron Man 3’s helmer Shane Black, writer-director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and scribe of films like Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout.
Directly following the Avengers film, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) finds himself in conflict with terrorist leader The Mandarin (Kingsley) and scientist Aldrich Killian (Pearce), creator of a body-enhancement virus called Extremis, with Stark having to rely on his own ingenuity when cut off from his helpful hardware.
The distinct Shane Black flavour may be even more pervasive than the previous Marvel film’s Whedon touch, with a narrative that feels comfortably in line with Black’s early products but with super-powered embellishments. Your mileage may vary on whether that’s a good thing, but the end result is a consistently enjoyable blockbuster and the series’ high.
Heavy on witty banter, though avoiding the smugly laid-back tone of the awful Iron Man 2, this third film successfully balances its serious and humorous elements to greatly entertaining effect. It also feels like a singular, fully realised entity, rather than a glorified teaser trailer for another crossover feature, and has some genuinely inspired and satisfying surprises amidst its familiar trappings. With most superhero features feeling rote, it’s heartening to find clever flourishes in one of the bigger series.