Given the success of 'The Avengers' and the individual films, it's really saying something that 'Iron Man' has been the biggest movie series. Perhaps it is because of the character's popularity, perhaps it was the spot-on casting, maybe the talent behind the camera or perhaps it was a premise that allowed for a perfect balance of action, humor and humanity.
In any event, Shane Black of 'Lethal Weapon' fame has taken the series over for 'Iron Man 3.' Will it work out? Maybe.
Right after the events of 'The Avengers' Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) isn't doing so well. He is suffering panic attacks and has holed himself up in his lair building robotic suits to the detriment of his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Buddy Jim Rhodes (Don Cheadle) aka. War Machine has been paraded around by the U.S. Government and rebranded as the Iron Patriot.
On a larger scale, America is under attack from a terrorist who goes by the name The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). When this villain's violence hits a little too close, Stark issues a challenge, which is answered by destroying Stark's home and sending him fleeing across the country in a faulty prototype suit.
As our hero recovers, he does some digging and discovers that the present may have something to do with events in the past.
John Favreau did a great job on the first 'Iron Man' but things got a little shaky with the sequel. A different perspective was probably needed and Shane Black was a good call. The series has always had a comedic streak to go along with the action (much like most of the best action movies). There is no need to introduce characters for 'The Avengers' in this story and it allows us to get to our villain and to concentrate on that.
With this freedom, Black gives us a fair amount of narrative misdirection which helps to keep things interesting. Now, 'interesting' could also mean 'infuriating' to some comic book fanatics who don't take kindly to meddling with an established universe. Some liberties are taken.
One minor bump in the narrative is a friendship that Stark develops with a young boy in Tennessee. It's not as protracted as you might fear and it doesn't really hurt the story's flow thanks to the fact that it isn't really a detour from investigating The Mandarin. It also helps that Stark is rather dismissive of the kid for much of the time. Still, kids almost always slow these movies down.
For the first time in the series, this film features a solid climax that really delivers. The other two films dropped the ball in that department but that has been corrected here.
Special features include: a look behind the scenes of the Air Force One scene and a behind the scenes look at 'Thor: The Dark World.'
'Iron Man 3' isn't going to sneak up on you like the original did, but it is a marked improvement upon its predecessor.
This is unlikely to be the last film in the series but if it would be, this was the last one Downey was under contract for, then this ends on a very high note.
Rated PG-13 130 minutes 2013