How can studios make a movie about terrorists and not have X, Y or Z groups protesting it? Easy! Send in a superhero to kick butt and take no prisoners! Such is the case for Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment’s new summer blockbuster, Iron Man.
Requisite billionaire and tech genius Tony Stark (a nicely buffed Robert Downey Jr.) has created highly complex and advanced weaponry for our U.S. military. With all that money and intelligence comes a level of arrogance and a layer of snarkiness, so it’s no surprise that Stark is ambushed by insurgents when he goes to Afghanistan to demonstrate his wares. Held hostage and connected to a bomb, he is ordered to create a new weapon for the rebels. Of course, Stark ends up creating a suit of armor, essentially putting the kibosh on the insurgents’ well-laid plans and escaping — but not before they use a secret cache of Stark weapons to kill U.S. soldiers.
Back home and seeing the world in a whole new light, Stark shuns his arms-dealing ways and tinkers away at the suit, perfecting the “Iron Man” image. Along with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his ever-faithful assistant and love interest, Stark goes through some of the film’s most enjoyable moments as he fine tunes the technology on the suit. Add a dash of Superman (flying), Batman (Stark’s Iron-Mancave), and Robocop (jazzed up suit of armor). and perfecto — Iron Man is born.
What makes Iron Man/Tony Stark likeable is that he’s not a mutant and his superhero status doesn’t come from a radioactive spider or a special ring. It’s all technology and smarts and a lot of ingenuity. His character is flawed, just like everyone is and that makes him seem more amenable.
Downey Jr. is well cast as Stark with his protein-packed physique and boyish good looks. He’s having a resurgence a la Patrick Dempsey. I liked both in my youth as well as New Kids on the Block – soon to go on tour! Have I died and gone to heaven? Is a Kidd Video return far behind? Director Jon Favreau, channeling his inner Hitchcock, makes a brief cameo. The rest of the cast is one-dimensional and comic bookish, which may have well been the intention.
It’s rare that I pay ten dollars for a film these days and think I actually got my money’s worth, but Iron Man is the exception. Opening ahead the rest of the superhero pack, the film should get a nice jump on this summer’s box office receipts before Indy, Hancock, and Speed Racer take it away. I’m already anticipating Iron Man 2.
Photos courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.