The third "Iron Man" movie is the jokiest and cutest of them all. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets a kiddie sidekick, for Pete's sake.
It's also far and away the most violent, with a "Die Hard" body count, bombs and bullets, and Stark trash-talking evil henchmen about how he's going to kill them.
Writer-director Shane Black, who cut his teeth on "Lethal Weapon" movies, brings a violent, angst-ridden sensibility to the franchise. And a less subtle one.
"Ever since that big dude with the hammer dropped out of the sky," a character apologizes, remembering Thor's arrival and "The Avengers," "subtlety's kind of gone out the window."
So there is not one Iron Man this time, and not just two (the War Machine suit, worn by Stark's military pal played by Don Cheadle). No, as the trailers promise, there are many - suits that can be summoned, video game fashion, in midfight, midflight. That sort of deus ex machina robs the fights-to-the-death of their fear of death and the film of some of its high-stakes urgency.
A new terrorist foe is assaulting America. The Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey, big and broad), who isn't Chinese, is threatening the president (William Sadler), the country and Iron Man.
And when the bad guy's minions take down Tony Stark's bodyguard (Jon Favreau, who directed the first two movies), Tony vows "good old-fashioned revenge."
That's when Tony's Fortress of Malibu is destroyed. That's when Tony's beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is endangered.
This "Iron Man" is about the "demons" we create through the people we wrong, and Black (who co-wrote the script) frames all this within a Tony flashback.
Downey is as on the money as ever as Stark, punching up pithy punchlines, but the third-act twists are pretty easy to see coming, and the action feels preordained.