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In this inaugural edition of the Arkansas Times Movie Club, our critics get in-depth with ‘Iron Man.’

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Lindsey Millar: I know that we've all been anticipating “Iron Man” for months now, pouring over screencaps, sending each other links to new versions of the trailer and crossing off days our calendar. Anytime a studio teams a director with a relatively smart, offbeat track record (Favreau of “Swingers” fame) with a serious actor (Downey Jr.) and stupid-cool F/X tricks, my expectations get a little silly. But fellas, I gotta tell you, I wasn't really let down. 

There's no question that “Iron Man” belongs in the pantheon with the first “Spiderman,” “Batman Begins” and “The Flash” (joking). Are we all in agreement? Who deserves credit? Marvel Studios? Favreau? The writers and rewriters? Downey Jr.?

Matt Reed: I agree, this is one of the best superhero movies ever made, and Favreau and Downey and the writers deserve the lion's share of the credit. Downey was tailor-made for this sort of role. It's even better if you grew up with some of his comedies in the '80s, like “The Pick-Up Artist.” Smarmy guy with heart of gold stuff. In fact, that's “Iron Man” for me: “The Pick-Up Artist” with robot suits. And everyone knows that if there's anything better than picking up chicks, it's picking up chicks in a robot suit.

David Koon: You know, Matt, I've gotta disagree with you on RD Jr. being tailor-made for the role. The lovely part about great actors — Brando comes to mind, as does Johnny Depp — is that they have this uncanny ability to take on roles that have you scratching your head and then knock your friggin' socks off. That was RD Jr. in Ironman. When I heard he was doing this, I honestly couldn't see him in the role. Now that he's done it, I can't see anybody else. Ditto on Christian Bale in “Batman Begins,” and ditto on Ed Norton in “Incredible Hulk,” which makes me think that one's going to rock as well.

LM: I'm not sure if he was tailor-made or not, but I dug Robert Downey Jr.'s performance. He talks more entertainingly (and acrobatically) than anyone in Hollywood, and early in the film, in full-on hedonistic international playboy/weapons manufacture mode, he out wish-fulfillments even “Entourage.” When he has to play serious in the caves of Afghanistan, I thought he pulled off the transition from self-obsessed chatterbox to slightly more subdued, self-obsessed chatterbox pretty well, but I had more trouble buying him as a crusader. The suit helped, clearly. The plot, too: If you had seen people killed with your missiles and been imprisoned by the killers, then yeah, I guess it's not too much of a reach to think you'd want to build a virtually indestructible rocket-powered future suit and destroy your own weapons. But what really didn't work for me was the transition from captive to crazy, but clear-eyed, indignant: the kernel of the crusader. Maybe I just like my Downey Jr. self-possessed and self-obsessed. Once he started building the suit and then flying around in it, he was helping people, but mostly, he was having a good time. 

I realize I'm complaining about like five minutes of the movie, but it was sort of pivotal. 

So, in sum, I thought Downey Jr. carried the film, the script was above average, but still suffered from the kind of plot problems that scripts that are written and rewritten by a huge team usually do: Namely, that Stark's able to create a giant metal weapon-suit under the eyes of his captors and that after he escapes, no one talks about what happened. Not even: “What happened?” “I don't want to talk about it.”

MR: I guess being waterboarded (nice touch there, but ruined when he started setting his captors on fire) and seeing his own weapons used by our enemies was supposed to be sufficient motivation for him to do a moral 180, but yeah, it would have been more believable if it had been less about The Mission and more about having fun and generally being awesome and stopping bad guys in particuarly bad-ass ways ... oh, yeah, and helping people.

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