IRON MAN 3 (12A)
AN ENTERTAINING return for Downey as Iron Man with a show stealing turn from Kingsley as the Mandarin.
IN THE big-screen superhero stakes, Iron Man may not be the coolest character ever to don a silly suit and set out to save the world, but he's certainly one of the most successful.
In the five short years since the first film in the franchise arrived on our screens, Robert Downey Jr's clunky creation has raked in more money at the box office than even the Walt Disney Corporation itself probably knows how to spend.
Now, as the third instalment of the studio's superhero serial roars into view, it's easy to see why it's done such remarkable business down the years.
People still want their comic book stories writ large on the big screen and Iron Man 3 respects the tradition and adds its own magical touches along the way as well.
A bright, simple tale of good and evil told with the kind of knowing style and old fashioned film making panache that most comic strip adaptations ignore, this is a splendid action film.
Across its two hours and 15 minute running time it's fun, actionpacked and rammed with enough good lines and memorable performances to ensure you leave the multiplex with more than just your ears ringing from the endless succession of CGI explosions.
Downey Jr is excellent once again as Tony Stark, the millionaire mortal with a penchant for high tech gadgets and saving the world. He's smart but vulnerable and given enough background and depth on screen to come across as a human character rather than a machine.
Shane Black directs proceedings with an impressive sense of pace and history as the story picks up directly where last year's Avengers movie left off.
That means our hero is left feeling a bit sorry for himself after all that fighting with aliens and gods that left most of Manhattan in tatters.
Given to panic attacks and selfdoubt, even his new armour occasionally reflects a certain vulnerability with strategic gaps in the metal revealing his human torso underneath. To make matters worse he has a brand new world-threatening challenge to face.
Now as anyone who knows their superhero sequels will tell you, this kind of pulp friendly adventure is all about the quality of the new villains and this time round Black has adapted a couple of classic baddies for the comic book wall of fame.
First up is the Mandarin, a shady leader of a global terrorist corporation with mass destruction on his mind. Played by just another rent-aface character actor, such a figure could have been a cliche peddling patsy.
Played by Sir Ben Kingsley, however, he is, in fact, one of the finest, most considered and genuinely evil bad guys ever to grace a film like this.
Also causing all manner of grief for Tony Stark is Aldrich Killian, a handsome geneticist who has perfected a virus that neatly turns his victims innards to lava. Played by Aussie actor Guy Pearce, the character just springs beautifully from the screen.
The action sequences here are powerful and effective but never overbearing. Black spreads them out neatly and allows the film a little breathing space between explosions.
It could be said Iron Man 2 (2010) was a little on the smug side, filled with too many insider references. Black corrects that here with a smart script that ups the banter without ever losing the thread.
Given Black's history - he wrote the Lethal Weapon flicks back in the day - his ear for quality wisecracking buddy dialogue maybe isn't all that surprising.
There's also a great supporting role for Don Cheadle, who plays Col. James Rhodes, the pilot of Iron Man's military counterpart War Machine and even Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as Tony's long term romance Pepper Pot is impressive enough to warrant praise rather than scorn for once.
Given that we're talking about a woman here who has all the acting ability of a lamp post that, in itself, is something of a miracle.
At a time when people clearly want the escapism of old fashioned comic book adventure when they venture into a cinema - just check out the $1billion global takings for Avengers Assemble if you want proof of that - Iron Man is bang on the money.
Big, brash but still light enough on its toes to not take itself too seriously, something that you can't say about the Batman franchise for instance, this latest Iron Man adventure is pure box office gold.
Well shiny metal at any rate.
Downey Jr is excellent once again as the millionaire who saves the world
(c) 2013 Belfast Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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