Friday, May 9, 2008

Iron Man ***

Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) builds weapons. He inherited Stark Industries from his father and has become one of the most important names in the business.
A child genius and flawless engineer he spends his free time gambling, partying and bedding beautiful women.
During a trip to Afghanistan where he's to demonstrate a new missile, his convoy is ambushed and Stark is captured by a guerrilla group who demand he builds weapons for them.
Trapped in the mountains he, and fellow captive Dr. Yinsen (Toub) tell them that they will make weapons for them, but instead forge a power armor, fueled by an arc reactor (that also helps keep Stark alive after the attack) that ends up as a prototype for what later becomes the Iron Man suit.
After his return to the States, Stark decides to stop making weapons and as Iron Man travels the world over to destroy them.
This doesn't come as good news to his business partner Obadiah Stane (Bridges) nor to the Afghan group that still wants revenge.
Favreau's film is a great introduction to one of the most unknown characters in the Marvel repertoire and one, for that matter, that does a satisfactory job in catching us up with why Stark deserves to be known as well as we do Peter Parker and Jean Grey.
Shot in a hyper realistic style that tries less to evoke the visuals of comic books and is more about how the scenes should play in your imagination, "Iron Man" provides a visual effects extravaganza that for once provides us with not more or less than we would've expected.
At the center of it all is a maniacally great performance by Downey Jr. who in a way seems to have been born to play Tony Stark.
His evolution from careless playboy into ,self, conscious superhero is one that needs the other to fully shape the man. Stark is a cocky man who you hate to love. At film's start he's shown in some mock magazine covers and when he appears on "Rolling Stone" you realize that we indeed live in a world that worships power regardless of where it comes from.
The thing about Downey is that when he realizes the truth of what his business does to the world, you believe his change completely, if only because you know that this is a man so selfish that this is the first time he's actually opening his eyes to something bigger than himself.
While a superheroe's costume is supposedly designed to keep his identity safe, Downey Jr. never completely vanishes inside his metal armor.
The animation job is obviously magnificent, because even while dashing across the skies or shooting missiles from his shoulder, Iron Man is still Tony Stark.
The supporting cast does a terrific job as well including Howard as Tony's friend Lt. Colonel James Rhodes, Clark Gregg as a nosy agent who by film's end makes you go "oh!" and the always magnificent Bridges who with a shaved head and full on beard gives a deliciously evil performance of power gone bad (in more ways than one).
Stealing every scene she's in, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Pepper Potts, Stark's loyal, and leggy, assistant who perfectly embodies damsel in distress with a twist.
She gets some of the film's best lines and often gives it a warm heart. Most dazzling of it all is the sexual chemistry between Paltrow and Downey Jr. which sometimes gives out more energy than any of the featured gadgets.
We grow up thinking that you grow up being a superhero, which is why Iron Man's midlife crisis enlightenment comes off as an invitation to change in the midst of a world that seems to be closing in on us.
It delivers the ultimate corporate wars to the baby boomers all over the world while reminding us that it's never late to make a fresh start.


patrick said...

Iron Man was practically flawless as a super hero flick; it drops pretty obvious hints that would indicate a sequel as well... i'm thinking the next one should be equally great

ed said...


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