Iron Man, 4.5/5

Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

I don’t know what the deal is. Either I’ve just seen two of the year’s best movies back to back or my local theater is pumping nitrous through it’s A/C system.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of this comic book phase America seems to be going through, nor have I ever been a big super hero fan, Batman excepted. Heck, I didn’t even like Spider-Man. That makes Iron Man a tough sell, but man I bought it hook line and sinker.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Tony Stark, a trillionaire playboy/weapons manufacturing genius who is just as likeable as he is despicable (he admits to failing to bed January’s Maxim cover girl thus bagging all twelve months, yet we almost feel sorry for him). While in Afghanistan showing off his latest weapon of not-quite-mass destruction, things go awry and he is captured and tortured by a rebel cell (suspiciously armed with Stark’s own weapons).

They demand Stark build them a version of the aforementioned WnqMD but instead he uses his time locked in a cave to build a super suit so he can bust out and return to his fleet of sports cars in Malibu. At the risk of giving too much away, he succeeds, but only with the help of nuclear powered pacemaker. I’ll let you guess if that turns out to be important later on as Robo-Stark inevitably begins to fight evil.

Once home, Stark renounces weapons manufacturing and retires to his basement where he proceeds to build a new and improved super suit, ironically manufacturing the ultimate weapon (with some help from some very amusing and eager-to-please robots). Now he can investigate how the bad guys got his arms in the first place, an investigation that leads right up to the company’s executive suites. Hmm. How intriguing. Somewhere in there a super villain emerges, but it’s a little goofy and feels more like a forced formality than a natural progression. Then again, what good is a superhero without an arch nemesis?

Which brings us to Robert Downey, Jr. I don’t want to get all fan boy on you, but Mr. Downey is freakin’ awesome and he only gets better when he slips into character and dons a sleazy mustache and bionic super suit. He’s a remarkably funny actor and it’s his dialog and timing that makes the movie. If I were to come into several billion dollars over night, I would fund a remake of every super hero movie ever made, each starring my man RDJ. I wouldn’t want to be Tony Stark, but I bet he’d throw one hell of a bachelor party.

But only if he had help from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, who is Stark’s Girl Friday (and Saturday, Sunday all the rest of the days of the week). Paltrow plays Potts with spunk and humor. She tolerates Stark’s playboy antics, but relishes showing his conquests the door the next morning. It’s obvious she is infatuated with Starks, but she keeps it interesting by remaining aloof and not fawning over him like a blithering idiot. Like I said, I wouldn’t want to be Tony Stark, but I’d kill for an assistant with Paltrow’s red hair, freckles and giggle.

Iron Man isn’t perfect and there a certainly a few chinks in the armor. The movie takes a long time to get going and Jon Favreau telegraphs certain plot points, but he has such great time doing it, it’s easy to overlook any faults. The final climatic battle between Iron Man and Requisite Super Villain is pretty bland and ordinary, especially when compared to the tone and humor of the rest of the movie.

I haven’t read the original Iron Man comics, so I have no idea if they had a political agenda or not. The movie tries to expose an innate evil and corruption in the military-industrial complex, but seeing as how movie humanity will ultimately rely on said complex to save the movie world, the message gets a little blurry.

Also, Ozzie’s classic song, Iron Man, doesn’t make an appearance, unless you count the incredibly weak cover over the ending credits. Back in Black gets airtime during the opening sequence, what a shame they didn’t roll the dice and use Iron Man regardless.

The movie isn’t brilliant art and it isn’t the best thing ever committed to celluloid, but it is a thoroughly entertaining movie and that’s good enough for me. Spring for popcorn and have a heck of a night.

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