Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark is a tricky character to write for. He’s entertaining, charming and quick-witted but he’s also – it must be said – a total jerk. To stay on his side for the length of a feature film, he needs to have real challenges to face – with the proviso that, ultimately, we want to see Downey Jr being awesome, not a convoluted comic-book plot.
Where Iron Man 2 failed at achieving these goals, Iron Man 3 succeeds. Here, Stark faces the Bin Laden-inspired Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), the sneering businessman Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and his own anxiety regarding the events of The Avengers. That’s a lot to deal with, but director Shane Black powers through the narrative with impressive efficiency, leaving plenty of time for Downey to do his thing. Stark spends the majority of the film outside of his suit of armour; it’s clever screenwriting, contrasting his cockiness with unexpected vulnerability.
It’s not perfect – Killian is underwritten, with unclear motivations, and the script is often clichéd (these clichés are generally executed with a self-aware sense of humour, fortunately) – but it’s damned entertaining. Exciting, kinetic and regularly laugh-out-loud funny, Iron Man 3 is everything a superhero film should be.