Phase One of Marvel Studios' interconnected movie universe spent so much of its time laying the groundwork for Avengers Assembled that we simply didn't know what to expect from Phase Two. If Iron Man 3 is any indication, the films released under that banner will be more focused and confident that any of their predecessors.

Wracked with self-doubt in the aftermath of Avengers Assembled, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself stripped of his home and high-tech gizmos as he becomes the latest target of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), an international terrorist determined to bring the United States to its knees.

All of which sounds like fairly standard superhero fare. But director Shane Black reshapes the material into his own vision, giving us a sharp and witty film that feels as much like a sequel to his earlier detective pastiche Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as it does to Iron Man and its sequel. How else do you explain jokes about Croydon or Downton Abbey in a mainstream action blockbuster?

But even if it's not exactly your traditional superhero blockbuster, that's okay. Because Iron Man 3 towers above them all as the smartest and funniest by some considerable margin.

Picture: For the most part Iron Man 3 looks very, very strong in hi-def. Daylight scenes are particularly impressive, bright and detailed, while also helping to bring out the bright, metallic colours of the Iron Man and Iron Patriot armours.  That said, this isn't a particularly bright film overall. Thankfully, the excellent contrast and delineation ensure that no matter how dark things get, the visuals always retain a sense of depth and clarity. The only slight niggle we have is that some of the more chaotic night shots towards the end of the film do suffer from noticeable crush, which robs the AVC 2.40:1 1080p image of a little bit of the sharpness seen elsewhere.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: As good as Iron Man 3 looks on Blu-ray, it sounds even better. Sequences such as the missile attack on Stark's home (Chapter 7) or the final showdown at the docks (Chapter 15) get the very best out of the film's DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, surrounding you with the sound of crumbling masonry and explosions, while unleashing pounding low-end effects through your subwoofer.

However, as noted in our the comments about the film itself, Iron Man 3 isn't what you'd call the most action-packed superhero blockbuster you'll ever see. Therefore, it's good to know that even the quieter sequences still manage impress with their intricate sonic detailing and the way in which they make use of the entire soundstage to bring the film's varied locations to life. Dialogue also holds up extremely well, sounding absolutely natural and cleanly picked out from the rest of the mix.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Iron Man 3 serves up some welcome extras headed up by a lively audio commentary from writer-director Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce. This is followed by the latest Marvel One-Shot short film, an enjoyable 15-minute period action romp featuring Captain America's Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell).

The Iron Man Unmasked (11-minutes) and Deconstructing the Scene: Attack on Air Force One (9 minutes) behind-the-scenes featurettes rise above the usual EPK standard and offer some genuine insight into the production. Also included are ten deleted extended scenes (16-minutes), although this doesn’t include any of the extra Dr. Wu material that was filmed specifically for the Chinese market.

Rounding things off is the frankly unimpressive ‘exclusive behind the scenes look’ at Thor: The Dark World. Clocking in at a little under 2-minutes, it’s simply the trailer with a few additional talking heads spliced into it.
Extras rating: 2.5/5

We say: A spectacularly smart and witty comic book movie that looks and sounds the part in HD 

Iron Man 3, Walt Disney Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £25 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5