Director: Shane Black

Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall

Studio: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios

Following on from last year's The Avengers, Robert Downey, Jr. returns as Tony Stark and his alter ego Iron Man. This time he faces a very powerful terrorist as well as his own personal demons.

After the disappointing second film, Shane Black takes the director's chair previously occupied by Jon Favreau. Having previously worked with Downey on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black injects some much-needed new blood into the franchise.

Having grown used to being top dog in prior films, Tony's world has been shattered by the events of The Avengers. Fighting against gods and aliens has made him realise that there are being he cannot match up to, badly affecting his mental state.

Downey retains his sharp-witted comedy whilst also giving gravitas to the scenes where Tony breaks into panic attacks. As Tony's girlfriend Pepper Potts, Paltrow finally comes into her own and stands up for herself, no longer the damsel in distress.

Kingsley cuts an imposing figure as the Mandarin, the film's primary villain. Rather than the Fu Manchu-esque sorceror from the comic books, this version of the Mandarin feels more like a real-world terrorist, using symbolism from various cultures to highlight the hypocrisies of Western society.

Guy Pearce plays Aldrich Killian, a military entrepreneur who rivals Stark in a number of areas. His sly demeanour and slick appearance result in a truely loathsome character. Rebecca Hall provides a central role as Maya Hansen, and shares great chemistry with both Downey and Paltrow.

Though he has reduced screentime, Don Cheadle makes the best of the material he is given as James Rhodes/Iron Patriot, and himself and Downey make a great partnership. There are also some decent supporting roles from Ty Simpkins and the always brillaint James Badge Dale.

The film is packed with plenty of laughs, with even J.A.R.V.I.S. (voiced by Paul Bettany) providing quite a few and the action scenes are stunning. This helps to retain the qualities that audiences have coem to lve about Iron Man.

However, the film does have some flaws. The 3D felt very unnecssary, and the Christmas setting felt out of place due to the film's late April release.

Though most viewers won't care, there is a twist towards the end that will infuriate fanboys.

Overall, this is the best Iron Man film. It gives a great ending to the trilogy and sets Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe off to one hell of a start.

Verdict: 4/5