Movie Review: Iron Man
Robert Downey jr. delivers in the upcoming summer blockbuster, Iron Man.
With Iron Man, the character, you get a different kind of intellectual, emotional and moral complexity than you get from the likes of Spider-Man or other spandex-clad supermen. Unlike ol’ web-head, whose adventures not only provide the most consistent comic-themed film franchise to date but mirror the coming of age experience of the series’ core audience, Iron Man is indeed a man, with man-sized experiences and man-sized problems.
Mind you, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins brilliantly initiated (and this summer will presumably continue) its own darker, more adult-oriented exploration of the hero myth – essentially the “book” without the “comic.” But directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man the film has retained both that maturity and adolescent mischievousness, in the process creating one of the more tonally successful if somewhat insubstantial adaptations in the history of superhero movies.
Robert Downey Jr. (Zodiac) is perfectly cast as Stark, a billionaire industrialist who awakens to find an electromagnet strapped to his chest after his convoy is attacked in Afghanistan. Escaping his kidnappers by building a crude armored suit, Tony returns home and announces that Stark Industries will cease production of all military technology. While this deeply worries Stark stockholders, particularly Obediah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who founded the company with Tony’s father, Tony becomes obsessed with building better and more sophisticated suits of armor. Before long, Tony and Obediah find themselves in a power struggle for the future of Stark Enterprises, with significantly more at stake than a couple of hundred billion dollars.
It was the casting of Downey that seemed to appease fan fears about adapting Iron Man, and truth be told he’s the best thing about the film. As an actor who’s been around the block and played plenty of characters beneath his talent (just two years ago he appeared in The Shaggy Dog), Downey lends the character experience and depth – two things which are essential to the transformation that must occur for Stark to go from complicity to consciousness. That Downey himself has failed in Hollywood almost more times than he has succeeded only adds an extra degree of dimension to the role, since more than half of the time Stark seems to be flying by the seat of his pants. But as always there’s clearly something going on inside his (and his character’s) head, and he plays Stark as an aging movie star who discovers one day that he can make “serious” films, and does so in the only way he knows how – namely as flashily as possible.
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