Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 16 News List

Marvel’s marvelous marvel is a sure box-office magnet

‘Iron Man’ is an outstanding superhero adventure that is well-directed and features strong supporting performances — most notably from Gwyneth Paltrow

By Bill Zwecker  /  ATLANTIC SYNDICATION

The delightful and well-crafted Iron Man, based on the Marvel Comics franchise, is one of the smartest superhero films to come down the pike in some time.

Robert Downey Jr again reveals why he is one of the best actors of his generation — allowing himself simultaneously to be playful and poignant as he adds enormous depth to the title role.

Unlike so many previous big-screen incarnations of a Marvel icon, Downey has carved out his own interpretation of Tony Stark/Iron Man, and yet he delivers on the established premise of the character — so as not to disappoint Iron Man’s legions of fans.

Of course, we don’t see the actor as Iron Man until about a half-hour into the film, when Tony Stark becomes the supercharged flying agent of destructive power — used for good to vanquish evil.

That process helps deliver a contemporary anti-war message. But thanks to the movie’s packaging as a superhero romp, director Jon Favreau pulls off his pacifist statement in a way that’s bound to be more successful than any number of recent films touching on Middle East warfare or terrorism.

As we first meet Stark, he’s living a flamboyant, arrogant, over-the-top lifestyle. Heir to a jillionaire American arms manufacturing fortune, he also happens to be a genius inventor in his own right. On a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest uber-weapon for US forces, Stark is kidnapped by terrorists presumably modeled after Taliban-style revolutionaries.

After imprisoning Stark in a deep cave, the anti-American terrorist leader tells him he can win his freedom in exchange for developing a powerful rocket for them. Oh, yes, and our hero is also connected to a bomb to discourage any thought of escape while a weird kind of electronic disc implanted in his chest keeps him alive.

Film Notes

IRON MAN (鋼鐵人)

DIRECTED BY: Jon Favreau

STARRING: Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Terrence Howard (Jim Rhodes), Jeff Bridges (Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Leslie Bibb (Christine Everhart), Shaun Toub (Yinsen), Faran Tahir (Raza),

Sayed Badreya (Abu Bakaar)

RUNNING TIME: 126 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE: Currently showing


Instead of crafting a bomb-bearing missile for his captors, he builds a somewhat crude — yet effective — metal suit, infused with all kinds of powerful weapons and propellants, created to facilitate his escape. He makes quite the explosive departure from deep within their mountain fortress, in just one of many spectacular examples of artful special effects used in this film.

When he returns to America, where he’s hailed as a hero, Stark sets out to change his company’s direction from military procurement to global improvement.

That sets him on a collision course with Obadiah Stane (played by a shaved-headed Jeff Bridges), Stark’s father’s protege who nurtured the young Tony and helped build the family firm into the world’s most powerful “agent of death.” Almost unrecognizable in the role, Bridges gives a deliciously evil performance and holds his own against Downey’s screen-dominating presence.

The same can be said for Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s loyal and ever-efficient assistant Pepper Potts. She exudes a subtle sensuality — that becomes far less subtle as the movie rolls on — but she also adds some terrific twists of humor, often communicated with only a glance, wink or head toss.

Favreau rates big kudos for his direction, hitting all the right notes of pacing and impact.

But in the end, it all comes down to Downey. It’s pure fun to watch him having a ball with this role. This supremely gifted actor will make several generations of filmgoers very happy. His fit form and edgy humor will appeal to younger audiences; the opportunity to watch an actor of a certain age (he just turned 43) also will make a lot of older moviegoers smile. There’s something nicely reassuring about watching a superhero who isn’t in his teens or early 20s.

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