"Iron Man," the first self-financed production from Marvel Studios, should catch boxoffice lightning in a bottle, thanks to hiring longtime Marvel Comics reader Jon Favreau as director and the supersmart casting of Robert Downey Jr. as the conflicted protagonist. The betting line about opening weekend grosses really pales in significance to the real question: Will the film imitate its hero's ability to blast into the stratosphere for many weeks? The guess here is a big yes.
The entire film, written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, is devoted to how Tony Stark, the top U.S. weapons manufacturer and all-around playboy, becomes Iron Man. A kidnapping by insurgents in Afghanistan forces Tony to invent a crude prototype to escape captivity. (His captors are a little too dumb for belief to think he is actually assembling a weapon for them.)
Back in his Malibu home, having witnessed U.S. soldiers slaughtered with his weaponry, he declares himself out of that business for good. While his partner Obadiah Stane (a marvelously malevolent Jeff Bridges) seizes control of the company, Tony perfects his red-and-gold weapons suit with a somewhat ill-defined plan to use it for good.
The film neatly borrows from a raft of both real and science-fiction technologies as well as previous sci-fi movies to propel the fast-paced two-hour film. In his home basement (think Bat Cave), Tony can talk to his computers and robotics (think R2-D2) while his suit starts to resemble RoboCop on human growth hormones. The space flights and acrobatics over Los Angeles evoke Spider-Man. Yet the whole package is distinctly its own, a tale originated in the '60s cleverly and logically transposed into today's world.
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