Fresh from the climactic events of The Avengers, Robert Downey, Jr once again dons the armor for Iron Man 3. Far superior than the disappointing second film, director and co-screenwriter Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon) focuses on the man within the armor, while successfully restoring the luster to the franchise.
Stark suffers from amnesia and anxiety attacks since the alien invasion of New York. In the wake of bombings masterminded by the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), global tensions run high. The bewildered intelligence agencies are puzzled by the lack of forensic evidence at the attack sites.
Amidst the largely excellent, almost non-stop action, Black miraculously makes space for a fascinating character study. Black and co-scripter Drew Pearce reveal more about Stark's motivations and emotions than all his previous film appearances combined. Despite the pointless and often distracting, post-production 3D, the engaging and creative fights electrify the screen.
Paltrow, in her best screen incarnation of Pepper yet, shines, as does the creepy AIM chief Guy Pearce. (Black and crew wisely discarded AIM's goofy yellow beekeeper outfits from the comics.) Ironically, Favreau, director of the previous installments, enjoyed more screen time and more prominence than in the first two movies.
Perhaps in his greatest trick, Black creates an original and clever updating of the racist Mandarin concept. As expected, the talented Kingsley masterfully displays the surprising nuances of the character.
The abundance of armors borders on the ridiculous as does the absence of S.H.I.E.L.D. It would seem that the strange nature of the bombings would require the agency's attention. Another flaw centers around the inconsistent rules pertaining to the armors and who can use them.
Unlike Iron Man 2, the movie serves as a singular tale not reliant on some future project for completion. Reminiscent of the action movies of the 60s and 70s, Iron Man 3 delivers a unique feel from the previous two films. If the rumors are true and this is indeed the final Downey, Jr. Iron Man, Black ensured that he leaves on a particular high note.