Iron Man throws first punch

**** out of *****

Even as a kid, I have always preferred the heroes who created themselves, rather than the ones who were simply born with incredible powers. There’s something much more intriguing to me about a hero born of circumstance and necessity. It’s the reason I’m drawn to characters like Batman and Iron Man. The latter receives his first big screen treatment with director Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. And if this summer movie season kickoff is any indication of what’s to come, we’ve got a great few months ahead of us, film fans.

Robert Downey Jr. excels here as billionaire industrialist and hedonist Tony Stark. During a visit to Afghanistan to demonstrate a few of his weapons manufacturing company’s latest products, Stark is caught in the crossfire of a roadside battle and captured by terrorists. Stark’s captors insist that he build them a bomb, but the wily engineer has a different project on his mind.

After constructing a large, robotic suit complete with bullet-resistant armor plating, flamethrowers and booster rockets, Stark escapes captivity and returns to the U.S. a changed man. He realizes that his inventions can help people, rather than simply hurt them, and redesigns the bulky prototype suit to become Iron Man, a heavily armored superhero bristling with crime-fighting tech.

There are quite a few reasons why Iron Man works so well and on so many different levels, but much of its appeal can be linked to the strength of the cast. As stated, Downey Jr. is just fantastic—witty, charming and fully believable as a self-indulged playboy turned hero. His performance alone is worth admission. Jeff Bridges is deliciously sleazy as Stark’s business partner, Obadiah Stane (who eventually becomes Iron Man’s nemesis, Iron Monger), and Gwyneth Paltrow shares some great scenes with Downey Jr. as Stark’s devoted personal assistant and love interest, Pepper Potts. Terrence Howard also turns in a solid performance as Stark’s military buddy, Jim Rhodes.

Though Iron Man resembles your standard comic book popcorn flick, it transcends the genre in several respects. There’s a nice balance of plot and action here, and the audience is allotted plenty of time to get to know Stark. The screenplay is sharp and the dialogue is refreshingly devoid of cheesy one-liners. Favreau also deploys CGI well, blending it seamlessly with live-action footage and using the special effects for the characters and the story, rather than against (Michael Bay could take a hint).

Iron Man will appeal to comic book fans and casual movie-goers alike, with plenty of nods to the comic mythos to sate the fanboy’s thirst (stick around after the closing credits for an awesome extra scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Marvel badass Nick Fury).

In terms of comic book adaptations, Iron Man tops the list with the likes of Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2 and Hellboy. Notably, this is the first self-financed film of the recently formed Marvel Studios. Let’s hope they produce proper treatments for the likes of Captain America, Thor, Dr. Strange and this summer’s upcoming The Incredible Hulk (in which Downey Jr.’s Stark will reportedly make an appearance).

Iron Man is a fun film brimming with great performances and some awesome set pieces (the final confrontation between Iron Man and Iron Monger is especially cool). Plus, this movie comes packaged with the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer. So, what are you waiting for? Usher in the summer with Iron Man.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review Matt, I really need to see this now. Iron Man looks pretty hardcore in that screen grab, awesome.


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