Seems like lately, superheroes are allowed to do just about anything. They can be dark and conflicted, angry, impulsive, alcoholic, unreliable, tortured by inner demons, even from hell themselves. What they can’t be allowed to do, though, is have fun. Spiderman gets punished for having fun. Wolverine doesn’t know the meaning of the word. And Batman? Don’t ask. So “Iron Man” does the unthinkable – it gives us a superhero who has fun in the superhero suit, and frankly is a lot of fun outside the suit as well.
Robert Downey Jr. is not the type of actor you cast as a superhero. He’s way too old; Spiderman, the new Superman and Batman are all under 30. Downey Jr.’s 43, though he looks 35. On top of that, Downey Jr.’s quick, witty, and just a touch effeminate. He made perfect sense wearing that scarf in “Zodiac.” Strangely, he also makes perfect sense in the bright red Iron Man suit. The thing is, he’s so much fun to watch out of the suit, it’s almost a disappointment when he puts it on.
Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a wealthy, brilliant arms manufacturer who never sleeps, drives fast and expensive cars, and beds a different model every night. He gets whatever he wants – except Pepper Potts. Played wonderfully by Gwyneth Paltrow, she is Stark’s assistant, the kind who plans his meetings, picks up his dry cleaning, and, occasionally, takes out the trash. The chemistry between them is palpable and delightful.
On a trip to demonstrate some of his high-tech toys, Stark gets kidnapped by the kind of terrorists who seem to prefer caves to more normal dwellings with things like fresh air and sunlight. They demand that he make them a weapon, with the defense-industry equivalent of a hot glue gun and elbow grease. Instead of building the Mother of All Bombs, Stark builds a giant iron suit and escapes. He then builds a better suit, but so do his enemies, who arranged the kidnapping in the first place. And, of course, the movie ends with a showdown.
Director Jon Favreau has a talent for storytelling; he makes every scene count, full of effervescent energy, wit, and verve. Stark spends a good half the movie refining his suit, and he shares more amusing banter with his tools than other fully human sidekicks get in some movies. But the fully human sidekicks are no slouches here, either. Terrance Howard takes a turn as Stark’s military liason, and a bald Jeff Bridges makes a wonderfully sinister Judas. And the action scenes don’t disappoint. Besides the fact that it’s awfully fun (and righteous) to watch an arms dealer destroy his own products, the scenes are gracefully choreographed. After being battered with images in action scenes from movies like “Hulk” and “Transformers” it’s a refreshing change.
- to fans of the old school comic books – back when the heroes were having fun.
- to anyone interested in light, fun, funny, charismatic action films. Haven’t seen much of that for a while.
- if you prefer the dark and conflicted the witty and fun.
“Iron Man” was released yesterday, September 30, on DVD.