DIR: Jon Favreau • WRI: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway • PROD: Victoria Alonso, Avi Arad, Kevin Feige • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Dan Lebental • DES: J. Michael Riva • CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Terence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow
Another summer, another superhero to whet our appetites for the heroic and the slightly imaginary. Amongst the nominees for ‘summer’s biggest boom’, Iron Man ranks slightly ahead of the crowd in being the first all-comic produced blockbuster to hit our screens. Courtesy of Marvel, and under the auspices of $140 million, Robert Downey Jr. assumes the daunting task of bringing the enigmatic steel millionaire to the public.
Cast with known names, but not huge stars, Marvel took a chance in allowing Downey Jr. the lead – a gamble mostly down to Jon Favreau – and a risk worth taking. Not only do we see a playboy millionaire as we have always wanted to see one – funny, fun, frivolous – but we also see a flawed hero in the making, brought wonderfully to life by the star (as we must henceforth refer to him).
Burdened with the obligatory ‘tale of the beginning’ weight all first-outings of superhero adaptations must carry, Iron Man does better than most in giving us much detail, but little boredom. Much of this is down to the easy manner Downey Jr. has with his part – he truly seems born to be Tony Stark. Not only does he nail the funny millionaire and the change-of-heart playboy but he is also a magnificent man of (steel) action!
And what is a leading man without a few side-players? Gwyneth Paltrow is a witty and clever Pepper Potts, giving credence to that staple of comic tales – the prim secretary who holds a torch for her philandering boss. Her role, though small, gives humanity to Downey Jr.’s humour – showing a Tony Stark capable of commitment and steadiness, despite his Iron-tendencies. Jeff Bridges grunts and minces onscreen as the villainous Obadiah Stane, and is perhaps a little too pegged into a stereotypical baddie role, but he rises above the mediocre script direction and gives enough growl to make him an obstacle.
The finale, as with most first-time tales held back by too much back story, is more skirmish than explosive, but it serves its purpose – Iron Man can hold his own in a battle. However, the lead-up to this ending is so fun and clever that you really don’t notice the time pass, as you enter into the strange world of a man in a steel suit.
Though his evolution from playboy to hard-boy can be viewed with a slight amount of incredulity – after all, it is just a tad farfetched that Tony Stark would make such a high-tech outfit in a cave in Afghanistan. But, come on – this is comic world, and such craziness should be overlooked. In fact, as comic-adaptations go, his abilities are much more believable than, say, nobody recognising Superman because of a pair of glasses, or a huge Bat Cave being built under a mansion with nobody any the wiser!
All in all, Iron Man makes it on every level – entertaining, exciting, and leaving you salivating for the next instalment. Marvel will be happy, Downey Jr. will be happy, and one hopes fanboys everywhere will be happy. Summer has landed!