It's heavy metal thunder part trois. Bigger. louder and crunchier than 2008’s Iron Man and far, far better than the spluttering Iron Man 2, Marvel’s man of steel (literally) takes flight again with plenty of eye candy for techie geeks but also something for people who may want, you know, a decent storyline in their super hero flicks.

Robert Downey Jr is as irresistible as ever as brilliant, boyish, billionaire Tony Stark, all rock 'n' roll swagger one minute and doe-eyed vulnerability the next. However, when we meet him again, Stark is not in a good place. After that life-changing encounter with those pesky aliens and a Manhattan wormhole in The Avengers, we find him tormented by metaphysical questions, panic attacks, and a royal case of insomnia.

Tinkering in his hi-tech subterranean lair, he perfects Iron Man prototype after prototype (number 43, take a look) and we share his ennui. Where to now for Iron Man and, indeed, a flexing tentacle of the Marvel movie franchise that really doesn’t have anywhere left to go?

Well, as if to prove that fact is always scarier than extraterrestrial fiction, you can always rely on global terrorism. A couple of serious evil-doers soon rear their ugly heads in the shape of The Mandarin, the figurehead of a terrorist group with far better Wi-Fi connection than Al Qaeda. He’s played by Ben Kingsley as a kind of druidic Osama Bin Laden and it's a turn that really does blow everybody off the screen for sheer presence and creepy malevolence.

Guy Pearce is also here as one Aldrich Killian, a geek turned supernaturally naughty megalomaniac. Spurned by Stark some years previously, he's now like the kid who’s had sand kicked in his face one too many times and he may well be about to have one hell of a genocidal tantrum.

It's all great, knockabout fun. Lethal Weapon script writer Shane Black hasn't lost his talent for buddy-buddy dialogue and well-choreographed action scenes. There are snappy exchanges between Downey and the great Don Cheadle, who returns as public sector superhero, The Iron Patriot, and when Stark’s own personal Xanadu, a pad perched high on a Malibu cliff top, gets blitzed to rubble in an airborne attack, it’s a thrilling spectacular of falling masonry and firepower.

Paltrow does her Pepper Potts thing well again only this time, the blindingly blonde beauty begins to develop into something far more deadly. There’s a nice running gag about Downton Abbey and when a suit-less Stark discovers his inner McGyver, the question of whether the suit maketh the man or the man maketh the suit may well have been answered.

The most attractive qualities of the very likeable Iron Man movies are the devil-may-care leading man and the right atmosphere of comic book pizzazz set in a "real-world" context. This third instalment has got both. After the disappointment of Iron Man 2 and the franchise re-fit of The Avengers, a healthy lubrication of the old creative 3-in-One gets the suit and the script running smoothly again.

Alan Corr