Another Summer, another Iron Man film, and this time it's up to Shane Black, Predator's geeky radio ops expert Hawkins, to step things up a gear. Not that the Iron Man films need stepping up, but like Downey Jr.'s alter ego Tony Stark, the franchise has a certain defiance in incremental ascension, creaking under the weight of its own success. Iron Man 3 begins with Stark suffering from panic attacks as the fantastical events of The Avengers, what with its aliens and trans-dimensional Norse deities, have left him feeling a bit woozy on his feet. His relationship with Virginia "Pepper" Potts (Paltrow) is now in full bloom, but his insomnian late-night workshop-tinkering is starting to strain their bond. It's not long before The Mandarin (Kingsley), a terrorist fully laden with Bin Laden attributes, comes knocking on America's door, promising all manner of atrocities. The realism (if it can be called that) of the Iron Man world jarred with allusions to Loki's more fantastical story, but in many ways I quite enjoyed Pearce and Black's economical screenplay even if it made for a more disjointed Iron Man experience than expected. Downey Jr. is an actor capable of conveying so much in intonation and gesture where lesser actors use words and action, and even though there isn't a Dark Knight Rises-style scene in which attention is drawn to Stark's armourless fragile humanity, we certainly feel how heavy the load the hero carries. I'm rather fond of Paltrow too, apparently disdained on the web for her goodie-goodie lifestyle advisings, here, a credible companion and worthy sidekick. Additionally, there's a blinder of a bluff played on comparison between trailer and feature (that concerns all things villainous) that knocked me for six in the most wonderful way, and injected much needed levity into proceedings that at times feel leaden with some kind of Scandinavian miserablism. It'll be interesting to see which way Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World go, and indeed the next Avengers film, but one can't shake the feeling Iron Man 3 has ended up, despite the creative and financial orgy that was promised, as just another superhero franchise film.