Tony and Pepper prepare for the onslaught, but can Iron Man survive?

BACK in 2005, both Shane Black and Robert Downey Junior were in a similar position.

Both were once the touted talents of their generations, but had, either through self-destruction or poor choices, seen their careers stall somewhat.

Then came Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Written and directed by Black and starring Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, the action comedy so captured the imagination of Hollywood that Downey Jr embarked on a career-best run, punctuated with being given the role of Tony Stark, the billionaire, genius, playboy philanthropist behind Iron Man.

After the success of the first film, the seeming regression of its sequel and then the runaway success of The Avengers, Downey Jr has made the role of Stark a career-defining and role-informing one.

Such is the power of the Stark lens, it has come to be the yardstick by which Downey Jr is measured; his Sherlock Holmes is essentially a Victorian Stark.

With

Iron Man 3, he is reunited with the man who kickstarted his career revival, Black, and it is obvious from the film’s opening inner-monologue that everyone involved is having a blast.

Following on from the events of The Avengers,  Stark is a changed man and not for the better.

Unable to sleep, constantly tinkering with new suit designs and battling with flashbacks of fighting Loki’s crew in New York, the film is clear from the get-go; this is the closing chapter of a standalone trilogy.

Black takes a fan-favourite story-arc and gives Stark a nemesis worthy of the name, Aldrich Killian, played with a smarmy fervour by Guy Pearce.

Killian is a scientist who has developed a virus, Extremis, that could bring Stark, and the USA, down.

Added to that, a nefarious villain known only as The Mandarin is bombing US interests across the world.

Fans of The Invincible Iron Man will recognise some fan-boy gratifying nods (assembling the suit at will! Coldblood! Hulkbuster!), but Black’s brief is to make a blockbuster that is as widely palatable as possible.

To that end, the script is extremely funny, with certain beats feeling like a Marvel version of Lethal Weapon and Tony’s fledging alliance with a 10-year-old boy  providing some serious laughs.

However, Black finds his theme and sticks to it rigidly; this is about whether Iron Man makes Tony Stark or Tony Stark makes Iron Man.

To hammer this point home, Black keeps the Stark out of the tin can for much of the first and second acts, showing Stark having to rely on his wits, charm and smarts to topple The Mandarin and Killian.

It is a bold ploy, one that Christopher Nolan used to great effect in his Bat-trilogy, and it works here; mostly.

Some of the final act buddy-cop scenes between Stark and Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes are humorous, but nothing compared to seeing Iron Man and War Machine (or the Iron Patriot) going to war.

But then again, Iron Man and Shane Black are both like pizza, or shawarma,  even when it’s not great, it’s still pretty great.