Now this is something a little different, a second sequel that is not only significantly stronger than the second (and also possibly better than the first film), but also ditches the tried-and-tested formula for something different, and in doing so injects new life into a franchise whilst simultaneously capping the first trilogy off. Sure, at the end of the day it’s still aimed at being a crowd pleasing summer blockbuster rather than anything meatier, but it’s also at the top of its game in delivering quality entertainment.
Most of this can be laid squarely at the feet of the new director – Shane Black – who manages to inject a little bit of late eighties / early nineties mayhem into the proceedings. There’s something pleasingly old school about the film as the hero sets about laying waste to a stream of goons in inventive (but never sadistic) ways, never too late to break a quip or be at the centre of an explosion. For all of the technology that’s been used to deliver this it still realises that a good script (and this is as good a script as summer movies get), genuine star charisma and actually making us care for characters is at the heart of a successful franchise. Throw in some genuine stunt work (including an astonishing free fall sequence) and I’ll admit that I’m likely to be happy. Black even makes the requisite nods to his earlier films – it’s Christmas, a house on stilts is destroyed, there’s a comedic pre-torture scene – but these never get in the way of the fun.
The second part of the success equation is of course Downey Jnr. It seems weird that there was a time when he wasn’t a massive star, but these days it feels like a natural fit. Best of all, whilst there’s star power in droves he still manages to fit in actual acting – okay, nothing quite as good as his piece in Zodiac for example, but certainly better than we expect in a summer blockbuster. There’s also a genuine chemistry between him and Gwyneth Paltrow, presumably because they’ve got used to each-others quirks and can now fire them back without thought. It’s the sort of film where you suspect everyone had an absolute blast making it.
Quibbles? The final set piece is a little too CGI heavy (especially given the aforementioned free fall sequence) and whilst the villains plan makes more sense than normal it still leaves some giant questions. But these are quibbles – the film’s great fun, doesn’t require you to turn off your brain completely and doesn’t set up an inevitable sequel.
There’s even less Audi product placement than last time! Well worth seeing.