Iron Man

    In preparation for seeing John Favreau’s adaptation of Iron Man, I re-read the 1964 origin story. Upon reflection, I have decided that it is irrelevant. Set in Vietnam before the war there became–how shall we say it?–complicated, it is a clumsy artifact of the Cold War and is best forgotten. I’m sure Marvel has updated it at least a couple of times.
    The origin’s plot, if not it’s setting, is rather nifty, however. Going with the movie’s version, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is in Afghanistan demonstrating a new weapons system to the military. There’s an attack and Stark is seriously, perhaps fatally wounded, he’s captured by Raza, a warlord with Genghis Khan-like ambitions (Faran Tahir).  Raza is told by his doctors that Stark has shrapnel in his chest that is migrating to his heart. Nothing can be done. The warlord hides this last bit of information from Stark and offers to cure him if the inventor can build a devastating weapon for the warlord. Instead Stark constructs an advanced armor suit that allows him to save himself, defeat the warlord and escape. Realizing the power he has created Stark vows to use it for good and to never let the military get a hold of it. His business partner, Obidiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) has other plans.
    The centerpiece of Iron Man is Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. Downey joins Hugh Jackman and Ron Perlman as perfectly cast comic book heroes. Not only does he look like Stark, as he’s traditionally drawn, but he captures all sides of the character: the unrepentant playboy, the curious and determined inventor, and vulnerability of a man who’s just realized that he’s been on the wrong path his entire life. Downey, who up until now has mostly done independent films, brings those thespian chops to this project and hits a home run. And the good news is that he seems willing to do more.
    His supporting cast is terrific too. Gwyneth Paltrow is cool on the outside, but smoldering on the inside as Stark’s long suffering personal assistant, Pepper Potts. Jeff Bridges is suitably oily and threatening as Obidiah Stane, the villain. Terrence Howard isn’t given much to do as Jim Rhodes, Stark’s friend and contact in the military, but I gather that there are bigger things down the line for Rhodey.
    For his first time directing a big special effects picture, John Faveau does a great job. The acting is universally excellent and the film is paced well. It looks great too. The sets are sleek and the effects are believable and well integrated into this world. The Iron Man suit will have you geeking out for years to come.
    Oh, and True Believers, make sure you stay until after the credits. You’ll thank me.

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