Tuesday, May 06, 2008

IRON MAN: This Summer's New Hero

IRON MAN (fantasy adventure)

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Jon Favreau
Time: 126 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This adaptation of the Marvel comic book hero by Jon Favreau is an 'origin story'. Unlike "Transformers" it uses CGI to enhance the narrative rather than to wow the audience. And the cast, especially Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow, are allowed to act rather than fill the screen as movie idols and eye candy. In short it works because we feel for the hero and his quest...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Billionaire industrialist and arms maker Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is in Afghanistan demonstrating his latest weapons when he is attacked by guerillas and seriously wounded. He wakes up to find himself in a cave - with a doctor (Shaun Toub as Yinsen) who has fitted an electromagnet to his chest to keep him alive. His captors, led by Raza (Faran Tahir), want him to build a powerful missile to fight the US but he uses the material to fashion a bulletproof iron suit to facilitate his escape, instead.

As soon as he returns home to the US, he makes a radical decision about his company's arms division - and starts improving the design of his 'Iron Man' suit. This incurs the wrath of his business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who goes all out to thwart Tony's plans. However, our hero is determined to become the Armoured Avenger, aided by his Girl Friday, Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and best friend Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard).

HITS & MISSES: While the comic books' origin of Iron Man was in Vietnam, Favreau shifts the location to Afghanistan which also allows scenes of missiles explosions and other flights of fancy. Like what Chris Nolan has done for "Batman Begins", Favreau also strips away the legend and rebuild it from the ground up, stressing on character development and the story. However, the best thing about "Iron man" is Downey Jr who fleshes out the hero nicely, focusing on Tony's psychological journey from ignorant playboy to shocked awareness about his business. After having his eyes opened, he feels that he has to do something.

The special effects are fantastic too, providing both spectacle and humour (as in Tony's robots that help to make the suit and dress him). Sure, the sequence about a rival 'Iron Man' seems too far-fetched, and the movie drags a bit in the second half, but things get spiced up whenever Paltrow's Pepper is onscreen as Tony's caring assistant and love interest.

THE LOWDOWN: Iron Man's here and Hollywood's Summer Hits have arrived! Time to hit the cinema, folks.


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