Iron Man – Marvel’s Red and Gold Ace


Marvel Comics displayed a wise choice in casting Robert Downey Jr. as the businessman, inventor, boozing capitalist Tony Stark, head of Stark Industries, as it brings another superhero to the silver screen. Downey’s interpretation, faithful to the comic version created in 1963 by Stan Lee, depicts the main character in all his original arrogance and egocentric flaws as a main producer of war weapons for the American Military, set this time in Afghanistan. Captured by the enemy in a sudden ambush attack and mortally wounded by shrapnel, Stark is operated on by cellmate Yensin – sensitively played by Shaun Taub, as the surgeon who saves Stark’s life.

Once up and about, the inventor is forced to create a weapon for the insurgents. Instead, and under the nose of the enemy, he invents the prototype for his first Iron Man Suit, of grey plate armor with crude but effective weapons to escape into the desert where he is miraculously rescued. Flown back to America and in a casual press conference, chewing on a burger, Stark announces to the world his plans to re-evaluate the course of Stark Industries, having found redemption.

Directed by Jon Favreau and written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, there is a lot of humor as the movie walks a tightrope with the political realities of the war in Afghanistan without once mentioning the name of President George W. Bush. The real enemy here is Stark’s lifelong friend, turned treacherous dog, Obadiah Stane, deliciously played by one of Hollywood’s finest character actors, Jeff Bridges, with a shaved head, goatee and a bit on the plump side.

Secretly, Stane plots to have Stark killed so that he would become head of the company and, with the Afghan insurgents, plays a chess game of multi-corporate treasure hunt for pieces of the original Iron Man prototype that would make even the late great Lloyd Bridges (Jeff’s father) – aka Mike Nelson, of the beloved Sea Hunt – forsake ocean snorkeling for the desert in search of hidden treasures.

An honorable mention must be allotted to the coveted role of Pepper Potts, the faithful secretary who is portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Lately, she seems to be focusing her career on playing supporting, minor acting roles that require no special acting talents. Here, she instills Pepper with the same vim and vigor that she did with Polly Perkins in the widely panned “Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow.” For an actress who won the coveted best Actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love“, she seems intent on peppering her recent performances with the same exuberance, as one who relies on keeping a straight face through a blue screen performance while privately thinking “They got to be kidding!”

In the end, the strength of Iron Man, the movie, lies with Downey who consistently provides multi-layered performances, in this case with subtle and overt one liners and humor that makes the movie work. This is why Marvel should be commended for it’s choice of Downey as the most recent Hollywood actor to don a superhero costume. Robert adds dimension and depth to one of Marvel’s weakest “Tin Man” superheroes.

For a complete list of the cast, see Movie Database.

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