Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were solid films that started and cemented the new Marvel film studio, both films enjoying huge commercial and critical success.

Rounding off the triology, especially following the astounding success of the “Avengers” movie is a no brainer, what could possibly go wrong?

Jon Favreau, director of the two previous films has stepped aside to allow previous screen-writing poster boy Shane Black, into the directors chair.

The film starts with a light hearted Tony Stark (Downey) voice-over, that sets a tongue in cheek tone as we go back in time to set the origins for this episode. We get to meet mad inventor Killian (Pearce) and Stark’s previous flame Maya (Hall).

Back to the present, Stark is working on Iron Man suits in his Malibu cliff top house with his partner Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Following the events in New York as part of the Avengers, he is experiencing panic attacks and a severe lack of sleep.

When the ‘Mandarin’ (Ben Kingsley), a ruthless terrorist, starts taking over the American airwaves, we are assaulted with the usual stereotypical middle eastern types, bringing apparent death and destruction to innocent, family loving Americans.

Stark is outraged and challenges the terrorists to take him down, this introduces his cliff top mansion to interior decorating via helicopter gunships, leaving Ironman in a much weakened state.

Seeking his revenge he plots his comeback with the help of a young lad and with the on/off again assistance of the ‘Iron Patriot’, (Don Cheadle) in a new buffed up US themed red white and blue suit.

So far, the movie does not stray from the usual formula too much but is directed in a disjointed and staccato style by Black. Downey has become very self indulgent, all but winking at the audience, dispensing one liners and unexpected failures almost to the point of self parody. Stark in the film is now so recognisable that everyone knows who is and he becomes almost post paparazzi, a star being treated like a star within his own film.

The story comes to a screeching halt about half way through, where the ‘fourth wall’ is all but broken and the film loses the small bit of momentum and tension it has built to that point. We move from uncomfortably close to reality terrorist themes, to a plot change of direction that frankly is hard to swallow.

The film comes across as a lazy, self indulgent albeit colourful mess, which bearing in mind it’s pedigree and built in fanbase is quite difficult to understand. The writers appear to want to mix real world issues within a superhero world and proceed to take a scattergun approach, criticising one thing they then protect in the next, a quite bizarre approach. Imbuing your superhero with real life mental issues such as panic attacks is not why people go to the movies.

What were they thinking, is the phrase you may repeat to yourself.

Downey is just Downey, the line between Stark and his apparent real life self is increasingly blurring. Cheadle does well although has nothing to do. Paltrow gets a much increased role and does well, certainly looking in great shape, obviously her real life part time movie star/full time mother role suits her well.

Kingsley looks dangerously exposed once the halfway point is reached, Guy Pearce gets to chew some scenery. The disposable henchman whilst looking cool with awesome effects, are blatant ‘Terminator’ rip off’s.

Overall the special effects are impressive, state of the art and yet, like so many recent blockbusters completely without heart. If you do not care about the characters, it does not matter how many times they are blown up or destroyed, there is nothing to feel.

Incidentally if characters can self heal, does it matter how many times they are destroyed. Won’t they just self heal again or is there a finite limit to how many times you can be disassembled?

Production values and effects add a half star but if the series moves to number four, Favreau may need to spend more time on the other side of the camera.

Summary

Bearing in mind what has come before, this is a real disappointment and perhaps Marvel’s first real stumble in their quest for real world film domination.

Poorly directed with an odd story, self knowing and yet in danger of imploding on itself. If you liked 1 and 2 you may not like this so much, however younger audiences will still love the colour, explosions and soulless action.

Fun in parts, with some good intentional laughs and a few unintentional US flag waving chuckles for an International audience.