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IRON MAN

SYNOPSIS:
Tony Stark (Robert Downey jr) has inherited his famous, respected father's giant weapons manufacturing empire and has used his scientific skills to develop an awesome new weapon, which he first shows off in Afghanistan. But when he's ambushed and forced to reproduce the weapon for mysterious warlords, he realizes he has been duped by his own firm's publicity, and instead of helping to keep people safe, he has helped to bring them harm. He makes a conscious decision to change all that, which brings down the wrath of his firm's long time lieutenant, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). With his trusted friend in the hierarchy of the military, Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and his ever loyal PA Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark embarks on a one-man crusade to use his skills and his extensive technology to fight evil as Iron Man.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Those who appreciate the unique screen presence that Robert Downey jr brings to every role will be seduced by his persona as Tony Stark - not because it's a different Downey, but because it's the same one we have learned to travel with in so many guises. Always a little battered, a little self deprecating and stubbornly self destructive one way or another, he makes Iron Man an entertaining caper - at least for me. I think his greatest talent is in knowing which lines to throw away - and they're not the ones anyone else might have picked.

It's not (for the lead parts) the usual suspects: Downey is surrounded by high profile actors who we are equally surprised to find in a sci-fi action thriller: Jeff Bridges transforms himself as a bearded baldie with corporate grunt, and Gwyneth Paltrow is at her best as the smart PA Pepper Potts (dig the name) who has a secret crush on her boss. Terrence Howard is likeably discombobulated by his friend's antics, and Faran Tahir is outstanding as the nasty warlord, as is Sayed Badreya as another nasty. Shaun Toub has a small but perfectly formed role at the start of the film, and Christine Everhart is feisty as a probing journalist for Vanity Fair (nice product placement).

As for the rest of the film, we can say it is trying to be a relevant transportation of an old (and minor) Marvel comic character by thrusting him into the middle of the war in Afghanistan. But it doesn't want to get bogged down in the real politics of that conflict, so it smudges the bad guys and paints them as evil, child-killing warlords anxious to rule all of Asia.

But that's par for the genre course, and the film's major strength is in its high tech, gadget-filled and supercool sequences that involve advanced computer technology, 3D imagery (akin to hologram realisations of mechanical parts of the iron man suit) and the big-end effects of Iron Man flying like Superman, or fighting like a nuclear warhead with arms. All up, it's a strange mixture of elements that are stuffed into this two hour film and there is less of the superhero bashing the baddies than you might expect. There are lots of scenes establishing Tony's change of heart, and his development of the ultimate fighting machine.

In another era, this would still have been a B movie for the Saturday afternoon youngster crowd, but with its top cast and top budget, Iron Man has to have a blockbuster feel about it.

Review by Louise Keller:
The combination of its realistic backdrop, boy's own adventure and Robert Downey Jr makes for a blast of a new style comic book hero in Iron Man. Above all, humour is what elevates this highly entertaining fantasy into something beyond our expectations. And better still, the humour is subtle and in line with the characters and the plot. As for Robert Downey Jr, who else could you imagine wearing a pin stripe suit, shades and glass of scotch in hand, driving in a jeep through an Afghani war zone? His wealthy industrialist visionary boy genius who stays cool as he lives on the edge, is ultra likeable, with never a safety net in sight for any of his daring experiments. The film is gritty, witty, droll and thrilling as Downey Jr's Tony Stark faces death, gains a conscience and kicks ass as he pits his wits and technology against his adversary.

You could be forgiven for thinking the beginning of this Marvel Comic Book story is about the war on terror in Afghanistan. The setting and realism with which the opening sequence is shot as Stark is taken captive and kept alive with the skill of Yinsen (Shaun Toub), a man with steady hands, is a sobering reminder of the times in which we live. The screenplay is clever in that every single occurrence is kept credible. Or almost. But certainly enough for us to believe in Downey's character and his extraordinary abilities to invent, create and execute. I loved the sequence in which he is trying out the flying powers of his new Iron Man creation, much to the bewilderment of the military. And of Terrence Howard's Rhodey, Stark's trusted military liaison and friend, with whom Stark is holding a mobile phone conversation mid air. Gwyneth Paltrow is a lovely choice as Stark's elegant and efficient assistant who does everything he requires, including showing the occasional one-night stand the door on the morning after (or putting out the trash, as she puts it), while Jeff Bridges, with shaved head and Rob Reiner beard is formidable as Obadiah Stane, his ambitious, double-dealing top executive.

Perhaps the most enjoyable scenes are those in which Stark is experimenting and things go wrong. He tries his newly developed powers on the sheer glass windows of his luxurious Malibou mansion that clings on the edge of a cliff, to shattering results. The banter between Stark and Rhodey flows easily, as does that with Paltrow's Pepper Potts, while the relationship between Stand and Stark spits like a spitfire. Needless to say the special effects zing: small, subtle, large and not so subtle. This is director Jon Favreau's greatest achievement to date, a sizzling super-hero adventure with bite, humour a touch of romance and a solid villain to balance the equation.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

IRON MAN (M)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Leslie Bibb, Bill Smitrovich, Shaun Toub

PRODUCER: Avi Arad, Kevin Feige

DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau

SCRIPT: Arthur Marcum, Matt Holloway

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique

EDITOR: Dan Lebental

MUSIC: Ramin Djawadi

PRODUCTION DESIGN: J. Michael Riva

RUNNING TIME: 126 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 1, 2008







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