Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Iron Man

Summer movie season is here, and damn if it doesn’t kick off with a bang. If the big blockbusters this summer are anywhere near as thrilling as Iron Man, then we are in for one hell of a season.

Robert Downey Jr. is perfectly (and unexpectedly) cast as billionaire Tony Shark, a boozing, womanizing asshole who manufactures weapons to fuel wars. “If we had peace, then I’d be out of business,” he says early on. Downey Jr. completely embodies Shark’s right-wing, capitalist philosophy and it comes as no surprise that he nails the superhero aspect, too.

Shark is captured by terrorists, who tell him to make a bomb for them, or else he is dead. Knowing he’s dead anyway, Shark begins to create an iron clad, indestructible suit, that is the prototype for his Iron Man.

Gifted actor turned director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Elf) directs Iron Man from one thrilling scene to another, not all of which, thanks to a great cast, involve explosions. Terrance Howard plays a Colonel who doubles as Shark’s best friend and soon-to-be sidekick. Gwyneth Paltrow has fun as Pepper Potts, Shark’s personal secretary and love interest. (Have no fear geeks, this comic-book adaptation of a film won’t ruin your time with a boring lost-love subplot.) And Jeff Bridges with no hair and a sinister goatee does a great job filling in the role of the main villain.

Much in the way of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, where Christian Bale was superb as an unexpected choice for Batman, Downey Jr. fuses his best qualities as an actor into a usually predictable role. He gives his Iron Man a sense of believable duty with equal parts guilt. Little details set this film in a different class from garbage like Transformers. Just becoming Iron Man is not enough far Shark to escape himself. He still has a weakness for liquor and women; there has been no sober transformation in becoming a super hero. Such a trait is bold and sincerely refreshing.

Pulling in huge box office numbers (a sequel is already scheduled for a 2010 release) it will be interesting to see where Favreau takes his character. But like this year’s sequel to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight promises to be a film worth watching. For now, enjoy the show. There’s no way the summer can keep up with Iron Man’s heat. B+

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