Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Iron Man" ushers in blockbuster season

***1/2 out of ****

All that glitters is iron as "Iron Man," the first summer blockbuster of 2008, starts off the season with a gigantic bang.

It was only a year ago that "Spider-Man 3" took theaters by storm in what was dubbed the "summer of the threequel," with the third installments of the "Shrek," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Ocean's," "Rush Hour" and "Bourne" franchises. This summer could be dubbed the "start of a summer series" with the coming of "Get Smart," based on a TV show, "Mama Mia!," a musical and "Wanted," a novel. "Iron Man" comes from a comic series and is one of the best films of the year so far.

Stan Lee's creation, Iron Man first made his appearance in comic books in 1962. Unlike most of the superheroes of the time, Iron Man was one of the first to have no real superpowers other than an invincible suit. Always a second-tier Marvel superhero, it shouldn't be long until Iron Man becomes a household name.

Robert Downey Jr. plays the main character Tony Stark. Stark is a genius engineer/billionaire/playboy who lives in a futuristic house on the coast of Malibu. His fortune comes from Stark Industries, a company that sells high-tech military weapons capable of mass destruction.

On a return trip back home from showing weapons to an army in Afghanistan, a group of terrorists, led by Raza (Faran Tahir), kidnap Stark and hold him in captivity. They want him to build a Jericho missile for their group with help from fellow captive Yinsen (Shaun Toub). What Tony builds isn't a missile, but another weapon entirely. He manufactures a makeshift suit of iron equipped with flamethrowers and rocket technology to fly.

Eluding his kidnappers after an exhilarating shoot 'em up thrill ride, Stark arrives home with a conscience crisis from seeing his weapons being used against the people that they are supposed to protect.

After a snazzy red and gold paint job and some creative engineering adjustments, Stark suits up as Iron Man to protect the world from the harm that he created.

Downey plays the role with a slick ease, comical not cynical and has fun with the part while engaging the audience with enjoyment as he gets adjusted to the suit's gadgets.

The Oscar-caliber cast is exquisitely perfect. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Stark's breezy, sarcastic assistant/love interest Pepper Potts. Terrence Howard is Stark's right-hand man and military pal Jim Rhodes. Jeff Bridges plays Obadiah Stane, Stark's shady business partner.

Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby ("First Snow," "Children of Men") along with newcomers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway wrote the screenplay that captures the drama and development that most films lack, and supply a dose of comedy and action. The ending, however, misses the same ingenious spark as the rest of the film.

The countless special effects are some of the best to date and extraordinarily seamless with the reality of the scene.

Move over Spider-Man and Superman, "Iron Man" is flat out an all-around crowd-pleaser.

No comments: