Amid the legion of superhero franchises, there’s been only one that relies on performance more than digital SFX, and that’s “Iron Man.” You could take any square-chinned blonde with good pecs and put them in the Captain America or Thor roles, but just try to imagine the Iron Man character without Robert Downey Jr. All the bad-boy sass, the breezy arrogance, the scattered charm … Downey owns the role, and it’s hard to think who could possibly replace him.
The latest “Iron Man” has everything you’d expect from a movie with “3″ in its title: more fireballs, badder bad guys and a gazillion battle-armor suits. But it’s also much, much funnier, thanks perhaps to the presence of director Shane Black, who scripted the classic “Lethal Weapon” flicks. Having worked with Downey before on cult comedy “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” he certainly knows what his star excels at, and Downey gets more sharp one-liners here than he did in the first two films combined. Almost stealing the show, though, is Ben Kingsley in the supervillain role as The Mandarin, who turns out to be something quite different than expected. (And I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s priceless.) All in all this is a popcorn flick par excellence.