Iron Man

There's no rust on this baby. Iron Man kicks off summern a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measurep. It's been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. All praise to acting dynamo Robert Downey Jr., who brings so much creative juice to the party that Iron Man achieves instant liftoff. Even if you know diddly about the character Marvel built in 1963, Downey and director Jon Favreau — just the right swinger for the job — will get youp to speed pronto.

Hard to believe that Iron Man and his alter ego, Tony Stark, have never been exploited as movie subjects before. Could it be that Stark, the boozing, lecherous, right-wing manufacturer of WMDs, scared off less willing to take a risk than Downey? Screw 'em. You can feel the exhilaration in the telling and updating of this origintory, with a script polish by no less than Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, the writers behind the brilliant Children of Men. Iron Man is a class act all the way. What kind of popcorn flick gets the great, dangerously charming Jeff Bridges to shave his head to play Obadiah Stane, the chief villain? Or Terrence Howard to add mystery to Rhodey, Tony's military adviser? Or Oscar princess Gwyneth Paltrow to show the smarts andexiness of Pepper Potts, Tony's leggy assistant? Don't question, just snap it up.

Tony gets blown up by his own weapons in Afghanistan — nothing like a near-death experience to trigger a switch to peace politics — he uses the three months of lockup by insurgents to build an iron suit that powers his shrapnel-shattered heart and helps him escape back to his L.A. workshop. There he adds some hot-red color to build anven cooler suit and begin his life as a superhero. "Spectacular" is the word, even when the plot gears grind from the strain. What matters is the raw vitality. Iron Man is the shit because Favreau (Made, Elf) is too funky to settle for slick. And Downey does something even moreesonant for this flying hunk of metal: He gives Iron Man a soul.

Watch Peter Travers' video review of Iron Man.

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From The Archives Issue 442: February 28, 1985