Film of the week: Iron Man 3 (12A) ****

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Now there’s a hint of sunshine in our lives, we can actually contemplate the arrival of summer and in cinematic terms that means the blockbusters are coming.

One of the early ones out of the block is Iron Man 3 in which Robert Downey Jr returns as the billionaire-inventor-superhero Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr stars in Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr stars in Iron Man 3

Directed and co-written by Shane Black, the man behind the Lethal Weapon movies and hailed as a pioneer of the action genre, it’s a real romp of a movie.

This time, the film-makers have gone for a back-to-basics feel in which Stark is forced to find a way back to being a superhero when all his money and toys are stripped away.

Technically it’s a sequel to two films, Iron Man 2 and last summer’s The Avengers, in which Iron Man and a roll call of Marvel comic book heroes united to protect Manhattan from aliens.

Stark hasn’t coped so well in the aftermath of these events and we find him a nervy insomniac prone to panic attacks.

He does at least have his former assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) on hand to soothe him as the pair have moved in together.

It’s not long, though, before their domestic bliss is thwarted by a two-pronged attack – the arrival of biologically advanced super-powered humans and the mysterious terror group figurehead The Mandarin.

The special effects are faultless and deserve to be seen in 3D, while Downey Jr gives an entertainingly jittery performance as a superhero on the edge.

Fun for both fans and newbies to the comic book world, the movie may be a lengthy 129 minutes but it doesn’t feel like it. That’s a bonus as you won’t want to leave your seat before you’ve seen the end-of-credits surprise.