Oh man... this is really good in an unfamiliar way. It has rekindled the spark of a teenager trapped in the shell of a cynical adult movie goer. In a race that began in 2008 to be crowned Hollywood's Coolest and Most Awesome Superhero Movie, the score is now 3-1 with Iron Man on a two- point lead.
The screenplay, co-written between Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout) and Drew Pearce is cleverly penned and packs the right punch for an action movie. By drumming up the significance of Tony Stark's development from previous films (The Avengers, Iron Man 1 & 2) without losing grip of dramatic unity as a whole; Shane Black (also the film's director) conceptualized a heroically simple, winning formula.
Another satisfying aspect of Iron Man 3 (and this converts to audience payoff at the end of 130 minutes), is the sweet simple fact that narrative does not detain viewers with unnecessary exposition and scenes. The big bad guys waste no time playing mind-games for the sake of delaying a final showdown, thus one-upping other blockbusters where it counts. Ergo, no shortchanging and an effortlessly fluid plot.
Things kick off with a flashback to 1999 during pre-Iron Man days, establishing Tony Stark's first meeting with future adversary — a then crippled scientist named Aldrich Killian. Desperate for resources from Stark Industries to develop experimental virus "Extremis" (yet turned away so unceremoniously), sets off rising malevolence from Killian (played by the unforgettable Guy Pearce, even more loathsome here than when he was hateful Charlie Rakes in Lawless). There's also brazen, immediate threat from a grim terrorist leader (Ben Kingsley's prowess and versatility in full glory here as both The Mandarin and Trevor Slattery) — bent on blowing up America at whatever cost necessary. And for what it's worth, I like the spin on Pepper Potts' (Gwyneth Paltrow) damsel-in-distress anticipated — compelling touch to an otherwise archetypal character.
To further inject urgency in the conflict, Tony Stark wrestles with the aftermath of New York (from The Avengers) and taunts The Mandarin on national TV, further exacerbating his wrath. A strike against Stark's mansion hatches a loosely comedic, coming-of-age with 10 year old Harley — it is here that leading man Robert Downey Jr. ingratiates himself as one of the best personality actors in Hollywood — incensed with moral rage at the right moments, oozing whimsical smooth in others.
I had fun spotting flashes of nostalgia in favorite superhero moments (Spiderman, Superman, Batman and even Transformers) throughout the show as well, and still can't believe they destroyed a fine looking limited edition Dora the Explorer digital watch. Nor of the fact that a highly entertaining movie just ended. What a frantic, generous and high octane hell of a ride.