Tuesday, 29 April 2008
It's not the greatest superhero movie ever made, but Jon Favreau's Iron Man is pretty darn good fun, a rollicking comic book adventure with a fine line in irony, some mighty impressive effects, and a stellar performance from Robert Downey Jr as billionaire/playboy/genius Tony Stark that should finally win him entry onto the A list. Smartly if not sensationally directed, Iron Man follows the Batman Begins template almost beat for beat, an origin story with lots of set up, a slambang third act and the satisfying promise of a sequel to come. Favreau (who contributes a cameo as Happy Hogan) pitches the humour and action at just the right level, making this superior in every way to the last Spidey film, not to mention X3 and Superman Returns. Not as dark as Nolan's Batman but almost as adult, the decision to update the story from Vietnam to Afghanistan gives the film a real-life resonance that never feels crass (this might well be the most commercial movie made about the War on Terror). Gwyneth Paltrow makes the most of a slightly underwritten role as Tony's faithful assistant Pepper Potts, while Jeff Bridges is sensational as the oily and treacherous Obadiah Stane, but this Iron Man truly feeds off Downey's persona. His Tony Stark begins the film as a whisky-drinking, fast car-driving, womanising arms manufacturer whose private plane comes complete with gyrating stewardesses and a stripper’s pole. Stark, who funds his opulent lifestyle by peddling weapons around the globe (earning himself the nickname the merchant of death in the process), is incredibly smart but strangely naive with it, until his near death experience in an Afghan cave opens his eyes to human cost of his chosen profession, and gives his life new purpose. Having turned his own round after various well publicized career-threatening battles, Downey nails Stark’s transformation inside and out of his various iron suits with aplomb, while Favreau shows that loving a comic book character doesn't necessarily mean stifling it onscreen. Even the obligatory Stan Lee cameo works fine.