strong>Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is pure gold
Offering more proof that there is still plenty of life in the superhero genre, “Iron Man” is the first installment of what (for better or for worse) is sure to be many sequels, and it is unquestionably this year’s first legit blockbuster.
Like 2005’s “Batman Begins,” “Iron Man” will satisfy both the casual moviegoer and the cynical critic, while also placating the die hard comic book fan. And it does so with the same panache exuded by its inspired lead, Robert Downey Jr.
Was Downey Jr. a strange choice to play the man behind the iron mask? Upon further reflection, the casting of Downey Jr. as the eccentric billionaire Tony Stark is spot on-giving the film a mocking hipness similar in spirit to the attitude that drew many to Marvel comics in the first place.
Director Jon Favreau’s previous efforts “Elf” and “Zathura” were good films that didn’t necessarily portend the deftness he displays here. In his capable hands, “Iron Man” falls somewhere between the dark psychological fantasy world of “Batman Begins” and the reverential righteousness of “Superman Returns.”
As brilliant weapons magnate Tony Stark, Downey Jr. is a witty, hard drinking, womanizing hero-more rock star than corporate icon– who’s happy to sell his high tech hardware to the highest bidder. But when he’s kidnapped by a band of power-crazed terrorists and thrust into an Afghani cave, he’s shown the bitter fallout of arms traded on the black market. Vowing to remake himself, he cobbles together his first iron suit right under the clueless collective noses of his captors-they think he’s building them a version of his super-advanced Jericho nuke missile.
Once back in his safe (and stunning) Malibu bachelor pad-slash-incredibly robotic lab, he finds changing the mission of his company to be easier said than done. Especially since his business partner (a superbly smooth, villainously bald and bearded Jeff Bridges) isn’t so keen on Stark’s new pacifistic ideology. Stark has a change of heart-almost literally– and confides in his attractive girl Friday Pepper Potts-a stock role that is taken to refreshingly meaningful heights by Gwyneth Paltrow. Her performance is another of the film’s unconventional treasures.
In fact, until the film’s perfunctory climactic showdown, “Iron Man” while not exactly original-fans of “Robocop” and “Hellboy” will notice plenty of inspiration-has more humor, pathos, and character development than most superhero films. The action sequences are clearly secondary in purpose here, which would normally spell doom for such a film.
But Downey Jr. charms the heck out of the opportunity he’s given. The suit may get all the attention, but it’s the man flying it who makes all the difference.
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, and sexual situations.