Iron Man 3
We know they're mostly on the same team, but Iron Man is definitely the best superhero of our times.
If there was still some question over who leads the current revival of superhero movies, you can stop your pop-culture equivocating now. It's Iron Man. It's always been Iron Man. With the release of Iron Man 3, probably the best film of the trilogy, all the other Avengers can fall into line and that over-earnest heavy breather should sulk in his cave/villa in Provence.
The Iron Mans have always innately had the superhero secret formula, combining the wry delivery of Robert Downey Jr, plots that aren't totally dumb, eye-popping action, a contemporary sense of cool detachment and the observance of canonical Marvel comics tradition. Then there's the fact that Tony Stark, Iron Man's alter ego, is a wealthy tech geek, not a jock (a seemingly prescient move on behalf of legendary comics creator Stan Lee back in 1963). Iron Man 3 has all this — but it is even funnier and more balls-out thrillingly action-packed than its predecessors. New writer/director Shane Black (who worked with Downey Jr in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) keeps the film tonally in the same ballpark as forerunner Jon Favreau, but perhaps his take on Tony is even more endearingly unpredictable.
Iron Man 3 isn't quite the famous 'Demon in a Bottle' alcoholism storyline, but one of Tony's nemeses in this instalment is definitely himself. He's shaken after travelling through a wormhole in an apocalyptic battle (it's worth being up to speed on the Marvel franchise before this trip to the cinema), he's feeling redundant now the government has their own 'Iron Patriot' (Don Cheadle), he's anxious, he's obsessive, and he's vulnerable. Into this mess step villains who are both corporeal and terrifying: a terrorist leader with digital prowess known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a spurned scientist, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who commands an army of what are essentially fire monsters. In the hypothetical extended game of rock-paper-scissors, fire usually beats iron.
Iron Man 3 is not without its ridiculousness. A big theme is the abilities of superheros when stripped of their suits — and here it seems those abilities are still pretty super. Tony and James 'Iron Patriot' Rhodes both display outrageous brawn (as well as their usual level of brains, of course) in just their jeans and hoodies. And while the final battle is epic and enthralling, it does have a whiff of the ol' 'why didn't they just do this from the beginning?' to it.
These are quibbles — a half-star's deduction, maximum. And that half-star is won back by the brilliant path down which Iron Man 3 takes its villains. This is a slick, inspired fantasy-adventure that almost anyone can enjoy. May Marvel Studios sign Downey Jr and co for many sequels to come.
Want to live near this spot?
Check out our handy Neighbourhood Guides to find out how you can.