Iron Man Three
Direction: Shane Black
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
After a hiatus of three years, Robert Downey Jr. unleashes his familiar superhero persona again in the third installment of the blockbuster series. Although it provides the requisite dosage of adrenaline rush, the storyline also underscores the vulnerable side to the high-profile crimefighter.
Following his near-fatal encounter at the conclusion of the collective adventures of last year's The Avengers, Tony Stark is plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder.
The man of steel spends sleepless nights, is prone to paranoia and has frequent anxiety attacks. More distressingly, he harbours doubts about his heavy metal-aided abilities. Indeed, Stark is now almost entirely dependant on the various armoured suits which can - abracadabra - automatically attach themselves onto his body. Besides battling his inner demons, the do-gooder also has to contend with an all-new baddie brigade. A bin Laden-like fanatic (Ben Kingsley) launches a series of attacks on American targets. When Stark recklessly issues a challenge, the terrorist reduces his Malibu cliffside home to rubble.
In a too-smart-for-its-own-good twist, it turns out that the public enemy is by no means the main adversary. Adding to the Iron Man's workload is a megalomaniac geneticist (Guy Pearce, suitably sinister).
Taking over the reins from Jon Favreau who helmed both the previous editions, incoming writer-director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) strives to blend dramatic intensity with wisecracking dialogue. Disconcertingly, the tone of the threequel is quite flippant. The first half hour is weighed down with so much exposition we wonder whether the action will ever start. Among the socko set pieces, count the mid-air rescue of the 13 member crew of Air Force One and the protracted climactic conflagration at a shipyard. A sub-plot involving Stark and his friendship with a Tennessee kid (Ty Simpkins, impressive) appears to have been added as an afterthought.
Also, the post-conversion to 3D is a hindrance. Viewers who have the patience to wait till the end of the extensive credits will be rewarded with a brief but extremely funny exchange between the Iron Man and his ally, Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
All in all, trackers of the Marvel cinematic universe are likely to be disappointed with Iron Man Three.