Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Movie Review: "Iron Man"

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow
Directed by Jon Favreau

Official Web site

When news first broke last year that troubled movie star Robert Downey Jr. would be playing the title character in the big-budgeted summer movie, “Iron Man,” more than a few eyebrows were raised, not to mention the blood pressure of executives at Paramount, the studio distributing the film. But audiences and executives can breathe easy, as this adaptation of the popular Marvel comic book franchise has almost certainly got a film franchise on its hands – thanks in no small part to Downey’s wonderfully crowd-pleasing work.

Playing Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy who has made his fortune on weapons manufacturing and sales, Downey captures the cockiness and fast-talking brashness of a man not used to being told no. But when he’s kidnapped by a group of brutal rebels while on a sales pitch in Afghanistan, he quickly realizes he’s no longer in control. Being forced to build a bomb he had just demonstrated to the U.S. military, Stark manages to instead spend his time constructing a metal suit that secures his freedom.

Taking on a series of modifications to the template of the suit once he returns home, Stark doesn’t set out to be a superhero that will thwart evildoers wherever they may roam. Instead, his main goal is to destroy the very weapons on which he and his company have made a fortune. Naturally, not everyone in the company shares Stark’s newfound sense of purpose.

Origin films, particularly with comic books, can tend to drag on occasion, as there is usually so much exposition required to introduce the characters and their various motivations. But the solidly written script (save for a less-than-satisfactory third act final battle) and good direction by Jon Favreau (in quite the departure from “Elf” and “Swingers”) keeps the action moving along at a fairly brisk pace. Plus, the casting is particularly noteworthy, as the four leads (Downey, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow) all do good work here. It’s pretty amazing to have a comic book movie filled at the top with actors who have all been nominated for an Oscar (and, in Paltrow’s case, won the award).

While a few months ago, people might have thought it a bit hard to believe Downey as a superhero, few have ever questioned his acting ability. It’s been all that off-the-set stuff that has usually caused him problems. But after witnessing him get harnessed into the sleek two-toned suit, deftly dropping self-deprecating one-liners along the way, any lingering doubt should easily disappear.

Grade: B+
(Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.)

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