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Iron Man - Review

Iron Man

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SUPERHERO movies are now such a familiar part of the summer blockbuster season that it takes something, well, really Marvellous to make them stand out. Iron Man, based on a character first created in 1963, has learned wisely from past successes and failures to emerge as one of the more enjoyable comic book adventures.

Sure, it’s restricted by a certain amount of genre convention and the fact that it’s clearly an opening chapter, but it’s boosted considerably by a clever director (Jon Favreau) and a brilliant lead actor (Robert Downey Jr) who are really at the top of their game.

Downey Jr plays billionaire businessman and playboy Tony Stark, the nonchalant CEO of a major weapons manufacturer, who is forced to reconsider his life when a trip to Afghanistan to unveil his latest WMD goes horrendously wrong.

Mortally wounded and held captive by Afghan terrorists, Stark is coerced into recreating his weapons for the enemy but instead hatches a hi-tech escape plan that gives birth to his ironclad alter ego. Once back on home soil, he then vows to continue righting the wrongs that his weapons manufacturing have set into play, only to face challenges from within his own organisation.

Iron Man begins with a bang in more ways than one: opening with some incendiary verbal interplay between the quick-witted Stark and some raw-faced Army grunts and then catapulting viewers straight into a highly charged action sequence involving Stark’s abduction at the hands of Afghan rebels.

It then flashes back to the events leading up to Stark’s capture, before setting into play his escape and subsequent Iron Man creation. But it escapes feeling too episodic because of Favreau’s snappy directorial style, which owes a lot to the slickness of Swingers, and the sheer charisma of RDJ.

By playing to the actor’s strengths (his raw energy and the inherent edginess that comes with such a colourful past), Iron Man feels like a vehicle that’s tailor made for the star to shine and he duly steps up to the challenge of carrying such a franchise opportunity.

Stark is, quite simply, a fun guy to be around; a former hell-raiser struggling to atone for his past who nevertheless refuses to sacrifice on the good times whilst doing so. Hence, where some superheroes wear their responsibility like a heavy burden, Stark uses it to empower him for the better whilst refusing to compromise on certain values- and that makes him a blast to be around.

But there’s strong support, too, as Favreau – himself a director with an independent attitude – has clearly followed the lead of Christopher Nolan and Bryan Singer by assembling a top-drawer supporting cast. Principal among them is Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane, striking with bald head and distinct beard, whose brooding villain adds plenty of gravitas to the latter half of proceedings.

But Gwyneth Paltrow also shines as Stark’s assistant and potential love interest, clearly benefiting from the snappy banter and sparkling sexual chemistry that exists between them, and Terrence Howard lays down some strong markers for the future.

The film does run out of steam late on, seemingly bogged down by the obligatory need for a superhero smack down and some vigorous genre box ticking, but it’s still never less than entertaining and Favreau keeps the action robust and suitably exciting. The effects also impress.

It means that once the dust has settled, fans should be keenly anticipating the [almost] inevitable sequel, which already looks set to be a very hot prospect indeed.

Iron Man is hip without being too knowing, contemporary whilst remaining reverential to its source material and, in Downey Jr and Favreau, boasts a formidable partnership that has capably delivered the first blockbuster smash of the summer. It’s well worth going along and having a Marvel.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 5mins
UK Release Date: May 2, 2008