Iron Man

May 02, 2008

Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, a self-absorbed munitions tycoon who is kidnapped by enemy weapons dealers and creates new-millennial armor that turns him into a superhero. Director Jon Favreau and two teams of screenwriters root Iron Man's high-flying derring-do in a change of heart that clicks first emotionally, then comedically and ultimately in both ways. Stark gains a novel slant on life that makes him see everyone from a fresh angle, including three close associates: his right-hand gal, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his business partner and surrogate father, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), and the U.S. military's liaison with Stark Industries, James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard). What gives the movie its high-altitude lift is that it plays these changes for humor as well as risk and pathos. Iron Man never falls into the trap of winking at the audience - the only thing "arch" about it is its villain - and it never seems overcalculated, either. It's a potential franchise-starter that plays like a frolicsome one-off. So far this spring, as far as live-action would-be blockbusters go, all that glitters is iron. (M.S.) PG-13 120 minutes A-

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