Looking, if anything, younger than he did in his last couple of spins for Marvel, Downey is at his superhero genius best here, rattling off dialogue both clever and boilerplate with non-repetitive aplomb. Clearly, part of the thinking behind this installment was to have Tony spend much of his time out of his Iron Man suit and force him to generate creative, rather than just physical, ways to solve problems, and this gives the actor more opportunities than he had in the second go-round. Hall's offbeat presence in what is her first big-budget franchise outing is greatly welcome, Pearce brings an arresting presence to his role as an egghead villain, and a fabulously accoutered and adorned Kingsley has a field day as the elusive Mandarin.
Trailers and promos so far have promised a darker take on the character than the previous two films, but happily, this is no dour Nolan-aping affair; if anything, it's more committed to the action-comedy feel than the previous installments, even as Black and co-writer Drew Pearce manage to find space for some strong character work; this is the film that seems to get under Tony Stark's skin the best, and lets Downey Jr find new notes to play.
The inevitable franchise fatigue -- plus a markedly unmemorable villain -- may account for the feeling that "Iron Man 3" is more perfunctory and workmanlike than its two predecessors, but this solid production still delivers more than enough of what fans expect to earn its weight in box office metal.
Robert Downey Jr is back, smashing walls and cracking wise as the billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, now out of the closet as Iron Man, living the dream in his future-tech clifftop pad and cohabitating with the beautiful Pepper Potts – Gwyneth Paltrow's excellent, relaxed performance making me wish she spent more time on film sets and less with her nutritional website.