Iron Man is the funniest comic-to-movie translation in
the wave of them engulfing Hollywood recently, keeping things light
and moving along quickly enough to prevent the audience from pondering
its outlandishness. By the end of the movie you will have asked
yourself what is more unbelievable—an arms dealer with a conscience
or a guy flying around in futuristic suit of armor.
While hawking state-of-the-art military hardware in Afghanistan,
genius weapons developer Tony Stark (Downey) is
abducted by terrorists and forced to make a rocket for them. Instead
he makes an invincible suit of armor and escapes. Once home he grows
a conscience and decides that he may better serve the world as a
superhero than as an arms dealer, much to the chagrin of his business
partner Obadiaih (Bridges). Tony Stark’s
innermost circle would not be complete without his highly placed
friend in the Pentagon, Colonel Rhodes (Howard)
or his plucky alliteratively named assistant Pepper Potts (Paltrow).
Most of the movie is spent on the process of becoming Iron Man,
and it is this tale that is the more compelling part of the story.
The movie succeeds because the character Tony Stark is so different
from other, more serious superhero identities. Robert Downey Jr.
completely transforms into the boozing, womanizing, fast-talking
billionaire. In many ways, Iron Man is the opposite of Batman, another
self made superhero. Whereas Bruce Wayne is a crime fighter pretending
to be a billionaire playboy, Tony Stark actually is a billionaire
playboy being crime fighter as a hobby to entertain himself, along
with fast cars and even faster women.
The rest of the cast do a fine job with the material they are given,
but it is Downey’s show all the way. His delivery is so quick
and natural you wonder how much was ad-libbed. It doesn’t
matter though; the effect is flawless. Everyone gets to be a straight
man to Downey’s comedian. In fact the movie slows down when
he dons the suit and flies out to fight crime because we don’t
have his screen presence. Paltrow, benefiting from some great hair
and make up, does her best to prevent Pepper Potts from becoming
a completely forgettable female lead, but that is hard work in Stark’s
all boys club.
The final showdown is a bit generic and the rest of the fights are
nothing spectacular, but everything else is just so much fun. Director
Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. have taken a
lesser known comic hero and created top tier summer entertainment.
Now if only we could get Terrence Howard to put on the suit and
become War Machine in the next movie.