Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) cannot sleep, suffers anxiety attacks that hit like a punch to the gut and is haunted by what happened in New York with the Avengers.
"I'm a pipin' hot mess," he admits to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in "Iron Man 3."
He cannot explain beings or things he experienced -- gods, aliens, other dimensions. "I'm just a man in a can."
3 stars = Good
Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Don Cheadle.
PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
But he may be the only man with or without his advanced armor who can save the world when a terrorist hijacks the airwaves, triggers a series of bombings and ramps up the threats and fiery destruction that hit Tony where he lives, literally and figuratively.
After a friend lies wounded and comatose in the hospital, Tony calls out the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), the face of terrorism: "My name is Tony Stark and I'm not afraid of you. ... No politics here, just good old-fashioned revenge" is his goal. Then, he gives his address to the media and promises he'll leave the door unlocked.
Villains come calling with explosions and other weaponry that send him and his magnificent mansion collapsing into the earth or somersaulting down the cliff into the ocean.
He ends up in a rural Tennessee town that might hold a clue to the violence and, along the way, is reunited with two people he met in 1999: geneticist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a big-brained businessman with daring but dangerous plans for DNA research.
"Iron Man 3," directed and co-written by Pittsburgh native Shane Black, is able to poke fun at both the larger Marvel Comics universe of The Avengers and the popularity of Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. The billionaire industrialist encounters a fan who interrupts a phone call to announce, "Mom, I need to call you back. Something magical is happening."
Is that something "Iron Man 3"? No, but it is more entertaining and streamlined than "Iron Man 2," which featured Don Cheadle -- back here as James "Rhodey" Rhodes -- along with Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson.
Mr. Downey, who collaborated with the director on the 2005 black comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," is in fine form here, bantering with bright-eyed Ty Simpkins (Russell Crowe's son in "The Next Three Days"), flashing back to a 1999 conference where his name tag read "You know who I am" and pulling his Iron Man suit through the snow like an albatross or visible alter ego.
Through no fault of its own, a few scenes in "Iron Man 3" may remind you of "Olympus Has Fallen," and the story builds to the sort of colossal and protracted fight scene that has become standard in such movies.
Comic-book fans will recognize some of the names and details, such as Mandarin and the Extremis virus, but "Iron Man 3" deviates from the sacred text. It makes brief mention of Tony's "super friends" but not why they wouldn't come to his aid here.
One nifty twist comes out of left field, a sky-high scare will make you long for the safety of the upside-down flying in "Flight," and be sure to sit through all of the credits for a bonus scene in which the gentle joke's on Iron Man.
Opens in some theaters as early as 9 tonight and will be everywhere Friday. In 2-D and pricier 3-D and IMAX.