NOW there's a hint of sunshine in our lives, we can actually contemplate the arrival of summer and in the cinematic terms that means the blockbusters are coming.
One of the early ones out of the block is Iron Man 3 in which Robert Downey Jr returns as the billionaire-inventor-superhero Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.
Directed and co-written by Shane Black, the man behind the Lethal Weapon movies and hailed as a pioneer of the action genre, it's a real romp of a movie (which will be welcome news to those who sat through the arduous prequel.) This time, the film-makers have gone for a back-to-basics feel in which Stark is forced to find a way back to being a superhero when all his money and toys are stripped away.
Technically it's a sequel to two films, Iron Man 2 and last summer's The Avengers in which Iron Man and a roll call of Marvel comic book heroes united to protect Manhattan from aliens.
Stark hasn't coped so well in the aftermath of these events (this is a person who previously thought he was the most powerful man in the world) and we find him a nervy insomniac prone to panic attacks.
He does at least have his former assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) on hand to soothe him as the pair have moved in together.
It's not long, though, before their domestic bliss is thwarted by a two-pronged attack - the arrival of biologically advanced superpowered humans and the mysterious figurehead of a terror group known as The Mandarin.
The special effects are faultless and deserve to be seen in 3D, while Iron Man's suit, which appears like swarm of bees and attaches itself piece by piece to Stark, adds extra interest. This movie supersedes many (including Iron Man 2) in that the thrills and spills are never to the detriment of the story and script, which feel sharp and fresh.
Downey Jr gives an entertainingly jittery performance as a superhero on the edge, while his jaded one-liners raise a laugh.
In any other film, Stark's relationship with the young boy who discovers him recuperating in his shed would be played for schmaltz - but not here.
Instead, Downey Jr delivers acerbic lines to great comic effect.
While Guy Pearce as the founder of a brain-trust organisation, Don Cheadle as Stark's ally and Rebecca Hall as his former lover all put in charismatic performances (though it has to be said the latter feels underused), a special mention has to go to Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin and a turn of events that feels truly inspired.
Fun for both fans and newbies to the comic book world, the movie may be a lengthy 129 minutes but it doesn't feel like it.
That's a bonus as you won't want to leave your seat before you've seen the end-of-credits surprise.
H H H H H
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