Iron Man soars above the rest, a thrilling, innovative and enormously entertaining movie that just may be the coolest AND smartest superhero adventure of them all.
For pure fun and action Marvel has outdone themselves this time. Created in 1963 by Marvel magician Stan Lee, Iron Man became the first superhero whose super powers were of his own invention. Taking all this time to finally get to the big screen, the film version focuses on billionaire industrialist and creative genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) As a major U.S. weapons contractor, his product protects America around the world. All his fame and fortune come crashing down, however, when his convoy is targeted, and he is taken hostage with life threatening injuries. When he is ordered by his main captor (Faran Tahir) to build the ultimate weapon, he turns the tables and erects an incredible armored suit that not only saves his life but helps him to escape the terrorists. Once he is back on U.S. ground, he changes his business plan and continues to refine his invention that provides him with super powers no one has ever dreamed of. Against the wishes of his ambitious No. 2 with the fun name, Obadiah Stane (a bald Jeff Bridges), Stark sets a new agenda, aided by his trusted assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and military confidante Rhodey (Terrence Howard). This leads him to uncover a diabolical plot against the world and make full use of his new chrome plated alter-ego.
Unlike virtually every other superhero epic of recent years from Spiderman to Superman to Batman et. al., Iron Man has been cast with award-caliber actors well out of their 20s and even, 30s and not necessarily known for their box office prowess. It has paid off with acting of a quality rarely seen in these types of popcorn pictures. Whatever it took to bring Downey Jr. aboard--just a few years after the one-time problematic actor was uninsurable--is clearly worth it. His acerbic style, command of character and complexity bring more to Tony Stark than could possibly be imagined. He manages to make guys like Tobey Maguire and Brandon Routh just pale by comparison. And that suit is soooo cool. This powerful and IRONic role suits Downey Jr's multitude of talents perfectly. It's especially fun catching the subtext as the one-time bad boy delivers loaded lines like, "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing". Bridges, another fine veteran performer, is ideally cast as an oily combatant who oozes corporate greed--a great villain for the post-Enron era in which this cinematic vision of Iron Man exists. Paltrow is lots of fun and given snappy one liners as the salty Pepper, and the often understated Howard, yet another off-beat casting choice, brings stature and gravitas to his military man.
Like his actors, Jon Favreau doesn't exactly seem like the obvious choice to direct a mega-millions summertime Marvel blockbuster. Still, the man behind the camera on the comedy Elf and kids' actioner Zathura blends skills he honed on both those family hits to successfully merge a savvy group of actors and some genuine comic wit with all the expected special effects razzle dazzle you could ever ask for. Smartly emphasizing character over cartoon set-ups, Favreau uses all the movie toys at his disposal wisely, never letting them overwhelm the business at hand. And you have to "marvel" at the singular success of the Iron Man suit itself, a flawless creation that works as well as it does because Downey Jr does not ever seem lost in it. Favreau's main battle and flying sequences are brilliantly executed and thrilling to watch, with an army of visual effects and digital artists to thank. Even though it's only early May, Iron Man signals the start of the warm weather movie going season. They just may have saved the best for first.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.