Monday, May 26, 2008

Iron Man Doesn't Disappoint

Well, I didn't post a "Friday's Featured Film" last week, but I did head out to the theater and take in Iron Man, which lived up to its reputation as a tremendously entertaining superhero movie. I'm not a comic-book reader, and so I knew next to nothing about Iron Man going in, but I found director Jon Favreau's (Elf, Zathura) film to be an exciting and smart action film.

The movie focuses on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the billionaire head of a weapons manufacturing company and playboy extraordinaire. While on a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate a new prototype for Army friend Col. James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), Stark is ambushed and kidnapped by a terrorist warlord (Faran Tahir) who wants Stark to build him a missile. Rethinking a wasted life, Stark instead begins to put his tremendous technical knowledge to work constructing a weapon that will allow him to escape - a battlesuit of iron. If he can free himself, he intends to take his knowledge and influence and use it to better the world rather than continuing to contribute to its destruction.

Downey turns in a simply great performance. He's not exactly the guy that one would think of to be the face of a blockbuster superhero franchise, but he was exactly the right guy for this job. Downey gives Stark a subtle, dry wit that is perfectly underplayed and makes for an intriguing lead character. I really believe that he's responsible for 75% of this movie's appeal. Couple his performance with good supporting roles from Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's assistant and you've got a summer action movie that delivers on a character level as well as a visceral one. The only misfire was Jeff Bridges as Stark's mentor and business partner. Bridges' performance isn't necessarily bad, just a bit overplayed in a role that's too predictable. Some may find the movie's pacing to be a bit slow, but I thought it moved at just the right speed to allow the audience to get to know the characters well. This isn't your stereotypical superhero film - Iron Man combines a spot-on wit with eye-popping visuals and never takes itself too seriously. If you're looking for a great diversion at the movies this summer, you won't go wrong with this one. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

Iron Man is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.

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