Film: Iron Man
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey jr, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
Runtime: 126 mins
Rating: * * *
The first of Marvel’s self-funded movies, Iron Man kicks off the Hollywood blockbuster season in style, taking on the resurrected Indiana Jones franchise and setting the stage for further comic book adaptations, Dark Night and The Incredible Hulk.
Robert Downey Jr stars as the billionaire playboy arms manufacturer Tony Stark, complete with glamorous assistant-cum-maid Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), a kind of modern Moneypenny taking care of Stark’s laundry while he fights the baddies. The plot itself kicks off with a grim-looking military convoy through Afghanistan, where the wise-cracking, sharp-suited Stark cuts a conspicuous outsider, flirting with the female service officers. The convoy comes under a rather spectacular attack, and Stark awakens under Taleban guard, with an electromagnet embedded in his chest, keeping a shard of shrapnel from cutting into his heart.
The science eludes me. He builds an iron suit, A-Team-style, and escapes, possibly the only American in the Middle East with an exit strategy.
Downey Jr’s distinctive style and delivery suits the Stark character to the ground, lending the movie a light-heartedness lacking in the moodier, occasionally angsty Batman and Spiderman series. This is not to say Iron Man doesn’t suffer from occasional moments of adolescent indulgence, but Downey Jr’s charm and the backdrop of the conflict in Afghanistan prevent the film from losing sight of the big picture.
Stark is a character with a serious mission, but one who recognises that the draw of comic book heroes is that superpower-dom should be fun. Director Jon Favreau allows Iron Man and its special effects team a long leash, indulging in the guns’n’bombs escapism of a war with a super-hero on our side.