Rating: 3.5 stars
There are very few super heroes you’d actually want to hang out with. I mean, Batman is all dark and gloomy, and Superman is a bit of a stiff, and Spiderman is way too angst-ridden. However, I’d hit the town with billionaire inventor and playboy Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man, anytime. You see, Tony Stark, as played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr., is a hipster, he’s sexy, he’s resourceful—in short, he’s like one of the Ocean’s Eleven guys, if they were inclined to strap on an armored suit and kick some terrorist ass.
As the film begins, Stark, an arms manufacturer who took over the business from his daddy, is flippantly confident that he’s doing the patriotic thing. It’s only after he’s kidnapped by Afghan warlords who are using his weapons to kill innocent villagers, that he realizes his company is doing more harm than good. He escapes from his captors by creating an ersatz fighting and flying suit. When he gets back to his laboratory in the states, he sets out to perfect it.
Along for the ride are Gwyneth Paltrow in a doting Girl Friday role that is beneath her abilities (but she does make the most out of a scene where she makes an awkward pass at her boss), Terrence Howard as Stark’s military friend, and Jeff Bridges as, well, the bad guy (that’s a bit of a spoiler, I guess, but if Bridges’s Lex Luther appearance didn’t give it away, then the many malevalent glances he throws Stark’s way should).
The talented director (and actor) Jon Favreau deftly balances the whiz-bang techno scenes with suspense, romance, and humor. Still, it’s Downey Jr.’s show. He’s always been a good actor but here he feels like a real star (and to think, I was skeptical he could pull off a superhero role). Not only can his Iron Man singlehandedly combat global terror, he’d make an excellent dinner guest.