Have you seen Iron Man yet?
Because it was friggin’ awesome.
Robert Downey, Jr. razzles, rocks and dazzles as defense contractor Tony Stark, whose devastatingly effective weapons systems have earned him the nickname “the Merchant of Death.”
And why should Tony mind? He’s making the world a safer place, right? And the money pays for fast cars, fast girls, and booze, booze, booze.
But on the way back to base from a desert weapons demonstration in Afghanistan, Tony’s caravan is attacked and the brave American soldiers assigned to protect him are obliterated by terrorists wielding none other than Stark’s own most recent technologies.
That kind of sucker-punch can change a man’s heart in a hurry. Tony’s heart, however, is changed not just figuratively but literally; his fellow captive Yinsen (played by The Kite Runner‘s Shaun Toub) helps him build a small electromagnetic device that fits in his chest to help keep all the shrapnel he ingested in the attack from reaching his heart.
The terrorists make Tony a deal: Build us a missile to use for our own nefarious purposes, and we’ll let you go.
Tony knows better.
Fortunately for Tony, the terrorists don’t. Because what do you think is going to happen when you give a bunch of missile ingredients to the world’s smartest man who suddenly decides he’s got everything to lose?
Tony’s escape from the terrorist camp in his wondrous suit of makeshift, fire-belching iron armor is the stuff superhero movies are made of. And when he comes home to his amazing workshop with its intelligent hologram workstations and a smart computer system called Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany), he realizes he’s got the means to make some major mechanical amends, using his brains and machines to make the kind of difference in the world that that no one else can.
Unfortunately, his corporate partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) might be more familiar with the terrorists who took Tony than our new hero could ever dare imagine. After all, if you build a big gun, someone’s going to try to build a bigger one. And before it’s all over, Tony will find himself face-to-face with a diabolical product of the very technologies he’s trying to use for good.
This movie couldn’t be more fun if it tried, and luckily it doesn’t even have to. Robert Downey, Jr.’s wit, confidence and charisma effortlessly catapult him into the Superhero Casting Hall of Fame. He makes every bit of this thing — from the character’s change of heart to all the difficult tech talk — feel honest and real.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays off Downey beautifully as his assistant, Pepper Potts, with a sweet, awkward charm that’s equal parts irresistible and endearing.
Terrence Howard rocks in a relatively small role as Tony’s military liaison Jim Rhodes, but one of the film’s best moments hints at bigger things for Howard in the sequel.
(Read any War Machine comics lately, Terrence?)
Jeff Bridges commands every scene he’s in like an Elder Statesman of Awesome, adding the kind of menacing gravity that Liam Neeson brought to a similar role in Batman Begins.
(And did you notice the “Lebowski” file on his desktop?)
Director Jon Favreau guides his actors and effects with skill in scenes that range from cocktail parties to down-and-dirty desert warfare. Also impressive are Stan Winston’s gorgeous armor suits, which get an extra dose of realism from the film’s whiz-bang sound design.
And make sure you stay until the end of the credits for a short scene that paves the way for an exciting direction Marvel Comics might be heading in with its future superhero films.
It’s going to be a busy summer at the movies, and Iron Man couldn’t have kicked it off better.