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Saturday, May 10, 2008


Posted By on Sat, May 10, 2008 at 5:23 PM


The concept of the superhero film is one that both excelled and failed.  Fine efforts, like "Batman Begins," "Superman: The Movie," and "Spider-Man," and miserable ones, like "Batman & Robin," "Captain America" and "Elektra," have made their way to the screen in the last thirty years. 

When Christian Bale was cast as Bruce Wayne in Chris Nolan's take on the caped crusader there was a plethora of buzz about the choice.  After all, everyone's leading man, George Clooney, was the last actor to wear the bat suit.  But when Robert Downey, Jr., an actor of extraordinary talent and a questionable past was named as the lead in Jon Favreau's "Iron Man," heads were scratched, to say the least.

But two minutes into the film it was apparent that Mr. Downey was an exceptional choice. His boozy, cavalier, boy-genius, womanizer was almost too perfect a match.  The question was could be he be taken seriously in a suit and flying through the sky.

Tony Stark is the CEO of the world's leading manufacturer of sophisticated weapons - everything from guns to guided missiles.  While on a weapons demonstration trip to Afghanistan his convoy is attacked by insurgents and he's taken captive.  Because of an explosion (ironically by one of the bombs he manufactures), small pieces of shrapnel rest dangerously close to his heart.  Only a fancy contraption inserted into his chest keeps him alive.

The rebels want Stark to build them a Jericho missile, a new missile that really serves as about forty; mini missiles spray off the primary and blow the target to smithereens.  But instead of building this missile, Stark builds the first generation of a suit that, powered by this glowing thing in his chest, can withstand bullets, demonstrate super-human strength and emit flames of fire like a high powered water hose.

After his rescue Stark returns to his laboratory to perfect his suit.  It's a marvelous sight, from the texture and compilation to the way it's constructed.  Watching him suit up and learn to fly is lots of fun.

His pal, Jim Rhodes, is also his military liaison and is played by the talented Terrence Howard.  He's assisted in his daily endeavors, from the discarding of his overnight guests to remembering his social security number, by Pepper Potts, a welcomed return to the big screen for Gwyneth Paltrow.  And then there's Obadiah Stane (what a name), Stark's business partner and eventual double-crosser, played by Jeff Bridges. 

In a summer of superhero films, "The Dark Knight" and "The Incredible Hulk," especially, "Iron Man" has set the bar high.  We won't know what will come of these two films, as well as the everyman superhero, Indiana Jones, for a few more weeks.  Until then, "Iron Man" will rule the comic book roost, and the box office.

Six years ago, Mr. Downey was fired from his re-occurring guest appearance on "Ally McBeal."  He was uninsurable and his future was in serious question.  Today, he's box office gold, and thousands of people have had an opportunity to see his talent on display. 

I'm a fan of comeback stories, and this is a great one.



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