Iron Man Review
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Movie fanatics and film critics alike always eagerly anticipate the arrival of May—not because the weather’s warmer or the flowers are blooming or anything (though those things are nice). No…we look forward to May because, while the rest of the hemisphere still thinks it’s spring, we know that the summer really starts when the first big summer blockbuster opens on the first weekend in May. And although last year’s Spider-Man 3 left me feeling completely indifferent, I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit giddy as I made my way into the theater this week for the official beginning of the 2008 summer blockbuster season.

The latest Marvel Comics big-screen adaptation, Iron Man, stars a surprisingly well-cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, the fast-talking, hard-partying head of weapons manufacturer Stark Industries.

While on a business trip in the Middle East, Tony is kidnapped by insurgents. After building himself an armored suit, however, Tony manages to escape—and when he returns home, he announces that he’s making some changes within his company. Instead of building weapons that eventually wind up in the hands of people like his kidnappers, he decides that Stark Industries needs work for peace instead.

Although his right-hand-man, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), is pretty sure that Tony’s lost his mind, Tony secretly takes to his basement workshop to build himself another—bigger, better—suit.

Though I went into Iron Man feeling hesitantly optimistic, I was relieved to find that it’s just what a comic book movie should be. Director Jon Favreau (who last directed the kids’ adventure Zathura) manages to strike the perfect balance between action and story. The action is definitely intense—and there are enough explosions to keep the fanboys happy—but the story doesn’t suffer for it. In fact, Favreau places the film’s focus on the story—and he does an excellent job of establishing the characters and their relationships between explosions. And for those members of the audience who don’t have a comic book collection, that’s important.

While Downey may be an unlikely superhero, he’s absolutely perfect for the role. Downey’s Stark is cool and cocky and determined—and he won’t take no for an answer. He’s not angry or bitter or vengeful. He’s just an easy-going billionaire who’s decided it’s time to fix some old mistakes and take on the bad guys. And that makes Iron Man a fun action film that’s not too dark and heavy. In that way, it’s a bit like the Fantastic Four movies—only much, much (and maybe another much) better. But, unlike Fantastic Four, the acting in Iron Man is a whole lot better—and the characters provide plenty of laughs without making the whole thing laughable.

I almost feel like a fanboy, gushing away about a superhero movie. But, hey—it’s the first weekend in May. And Iron Man deserves a little bit of gushing—because it’s just plain fun. It’s got a solid story, a great cast, and some stunning effects. It’s funny without being goofy, and it’s action-packed without being two hours of nothing but explosions.

Iron Man gets my whole-hearted Popcorn Flick Recommendation. So, this weekend, pack up the kids, head to the theater, splurge on a soda and a jumbo popcorn, and take a seat with the film freaks and fanboys to celebrate the start of another summer movie season.

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