Courtesy PhotoTony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his armor must find a way to foil a bomber in “Iron Man 3.”

Man in a can

Thanks to the brilliant casting of Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark — aka Iron Man — is the most fun of all movie superheroes.

Unlike the army of muscular pretty boys, Downey brings incredible talent, charisma and personality to his roles. He has gifted Stark with an infectious, devil-may-care attitude and an array of ready wisecracks.

In “Iron Man 3,” however, Stark is a little skittish from his experiences in last summer’s “The Avengers.” He can’t sleep, and he doesn’t want to talk about it. Also, he’s begun to experience panic attacks.

Weirdly, he has developed a kind of on-again-off-again relationship with his own armor. It goes on and comes off a surprising number of times in this movie.

In one section, following a brutal attack, Stark ends up in the middle of nowhere, stuck with a nonoperational suit. He must infiltrate the bad guy’s headquarters with little more protection than a black hoodie.

While previous “Iron Man” films placed too much emphasis on visual effects and not enough on people, “Iron Man 3” has cracked the problem with new remote-control armor that allows Downey to appear on camera while Iron Men fly all around him (he can jump into any suit at any time).

The plot pits our hero against Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who has developed a hideous new bomb.

Killian appears to be working with a terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Stark must stop them, and protect his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at the same time.

The movie also adds a young boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), into the mix. Harley helps the armor-less Stark like a stray dog, and they have a funny, playful rapport.

“Iron Man 3” springs from the mind of the intriguing Shane Black, who has written funny, subversive action films including  “Lethal Weapon” and “The Last Boy Scout.” (Black’s terrific directorial debut, the detective story “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” also starred Downey; they’re a good match).

Black brings snappy dialogue and brisk pacing to the “Iron Man” franchise. Better still, he has a clever way of deconstructing and commenting upon standard genre elements without giving up the fun. For example, most of Black’s films — “Iron Man 3” included — take place at Christmastime, replacing explosions with lights and tinsel.

A bit like Tony Stark himself, “Iron Man 3” crackles with personality and humanity, not caring what people may think.

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