The U. S. Marines are looking for "a few good men," and they need look no further than Marvel Comic's superhero Iron Man, amusingly and brilliantly played by Robert Downey Jr. in the new Iron Man movie.
Self-absorbed billionaire Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) has taken over his late father's high-tech arms company. Stark Industry, one of the U.S. government’s top weapons contractors, has designed a new high-tech weapon, currently being used to obliterate insurgents in Afghanistan. Tony is the toast of every soirée and can put even an inquiring magazine reporter – who asks about his company's responsibility in killing people – in her rightful spot, his bed!
Tony and his best friend and military liaison Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) go to Afghanistan to see Stark's handiwork firsthand. A ride in a Humvee ends up in a deadly explosion, leaving solders dead and an injured Tony captured by Raza (Faran Tahir), the sinister leader of the insurgents. Only in a comic book movie could a prisoner build a super flying suit while in captivity. Tony escapes, and after a duel with a few U.S. Air Force jets, ends up back home, where he must refine the electromagnet that keeps his injured heart working.
Back in his million-dollar house and lab, Tony's assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) brief him on company news. When Pepper actually helps Tony re-attach his electromagnet, there are moments between them which hint that their relationship is taking on a different dynamic. Obadiah, on the other hand, spouts off technical jargon about the company, but there's nothing friendly or collaborative in his attitude.
Maybe it's his electromagnet-supported heart or inspiration from his deceased father, but when Tony discovers that Obadiah is sabotaging the company and is in cahoots with Raza, he gets serious about designing an Iron Man suit that will truly battle evil.
Marvel Comics' Iron Man, created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, made his first appearance in the Tales of Suspense in April 1963. Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter ego, was inspired partly by the personality of the late, renowned Howard Hughes.
"Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time,” said the film's executive producer Stan Lee. “He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multimillionaire, a ladies’ man and, finally, a nutcase."
It's vital when casting comic superheroes such as Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men and The Fantastic Four, that the actors bring something unique to the role which enables it to work in more than one film.
David Maisel, chairman of Marvel Studios, explained why Marvel has been so successful in adapting its comic book characters to the silver screen. "Our films are as much about the man as the superhero," said Maisel. "We cast great actors who will appeal to both kids and adults. We set our films up to appeal to everyone."
I’m pleased this movie is set in contemporary time because it allows the imagination of younger fans of the genre to soar. I also appreciate Iron Man not being portrayed as merely a robot who can do no wrong. Like most of Marvel's superheroes who also project vulnerability, Iron Man's abilities come from a man-made suit, but the man inside the suit has flaws like everyday people.
Robert Downey Jr., full-swing back into his acting genius, is exceptional as Iron Man. In the first half of the movie he creates a somewhat blasé attitude for his character. Life for Tony Stark is cool, and you can almost image him doing the Charlie Chaplin waddle across his workshop. When Tony realizes it's his company's weapons helping to kill innocent people, his weak heart finds inner strength to go beyond what a mortal man can do in order to right wrongs.
I like Jeff Bridges in more amenable or conflicted roles (Seabiscuit, The Door in Floor), so I couldn't wrap my mind around his role as the ruthless Obadiah. Maybe his bald head and long horrible beard took my focus away from his performance, but to me his role seemed a paint-by-numbers no-brainer.
Paltrow is fun, innocent, and Ivory-clean as Potts. Her dedication is akin to that of Batman's right-hand man Alfred. She'll do anything for her boss, even face down Iron Monger (Bridges) to save Iron Man's life.
Minus a few-too-many electric drills and racquet scenes, director Jon Favreau steers an exciting production that will most assuredly be followed up with sequels. Special effects, set designs, and technical costumes in the film are magnificent.
I feel a need to warn parents who sometimes think comic book character-based movies are okay for kids. Please think twice about taking children 12 and under to this PG-13-rated movie. Iron Man contains some sexual content and military-type and comic book violence. Packed with action, novelty, and fun, however, Iron Man is destined to be a pre-summer blockbuster.