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Iron Man 3

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So leaden are the jokes, so scattered is its focus, it threatens to court disaster. Then, against all odds, the movie rights itself to recapture that Marvel-ous spirit of the 2008 original. It’s almost as if Shane Black (directing for only the second time, and his first since 2005’s woefully underseen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) were working off the rust of inactivity as he went along.

The film's comeback is as remarkable as that of its gifted star, Robert Downey Jr., once unemployable box-office poison. It’s hardly the only sudden turn Black makes in steering this sequel to eventual success.

Post-Avengers, bad-boy billionaire Tony Stark (Downey) must don armor to save the world once more when a terrorist operating under the nom de plume of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley, Hugo) threatens the life of the President of the United States (William Sadler, Man on a Ledge) and countless innocent bystanders via human bombs under the villain’s employ.

If that sounds awfully grim for the start of the summer-movie season (especially mere weeks removed from the acts of terrorism at the Boston Marathon), you’re right ... yet also wrong; real surprises in the seemingly conventional story await.

Iron Man 3 becomes an awfully funny and fun ride with an energy typically not seen in third chapters of a franchise. Usually in these comic-book adaptations, the climactic battle is the least exciting thing about them. In Black’s hands — from which the words of Lethal Weapon once poured, mind you — it’s a show of fireworks (partly literal) that suggests July 4 is two months premature. We’ll allow it.  —Rod Lott

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