Tony Stark’s last adventure has him rattled.  After all, almost getting killed by a wormhole and watching Norse gods dancing through the atmosphere will do that to a guy.  When his past comes back to haunt him, he’s unprepared — and when the world’s biggest terrorist attacks his friend, he’s in the mood for revenge.  But things aren’t what they seem, and Stark isn’t the only one with revenge on his mind.  Can the Iron Man shake off his demons and save America, Pepper Potts, and himself?

Normally I wouldn’t bother to review the third sequel in a series, especially for a Marvel movie, because the audiences for these films are already so established.  However, I did do a review for the latest Die Hard installment, and the Iron Man series has been more fun than most of the comic-book genre.  That plus the cast pulled me in — and I’m glad it did. Iron Man 3 proved to be a fun ride, a great popcorn flick with some (mild) points for pondering on terrorism and facing fears.  The epilogue seems a little rushed, but by that time, you’ll be grateful for the soft landing to the roller-coaster adventure.

Iron Man, more than most of the comic-book genre, relies on character and irreverence.  This installment is no different, and Robert Downey Jr once again charms as Stark, the neurotic and egotistical superhero with no secret identity at all.  Gwyneth Paltrow has a little more to do in this episode, as does Jon Favreau, who also exec-produced this film.  This time, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce come on as villains, with Pearce given an almost Edward Nygma-esque character but in a much more serious vein than in Batman Forever.  Don Cheadle is … well, Don Cheadle-level terrific, and Rebecca Hall offers a couple of surprises as Maya Hansen, a one-night fling of Stark’s who returns to seek his assistance.

Unlike most trilogies, one doesn’t have to have followed the series to understand what’s happening in Iron Man 3, but it does help to have seen Marvel’s The Avengers. (Trivia aside: I reviewed it exactly one year ago today.)  This is actually a much better film than The Avengers, with a few more surprises and fewer clichés.  It’s a bit more violent than one might expect for a PG-13 film, and it gets very intense, so it’s not going to be for young children.  Otherwise, buy some popcorn and strap yourself in for a great ride, and be sure to stick around past the credits for one last bit of Marvel fun.

Note: The trailer has a number of lines that never appear in the picture.  Also, next week, I’m going to review The Great Gatsby, with the reasonable expectation that no one will make a Great Gatsby 3 (or 2, either).  I just read the novel for the first time in preparation for it.