Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is a genius billionaire weapons manufacturer, who lives to extreme excess, regularly bedding gorgeous women but rarely staying around the next morning. His work and personal life is run by his loyal assistant Pepper (Paltrow), who is seemingly the only one who truly understands her boss. When Tony is kidnapped and has his own weapons used against him, he has a moral epiphany and uses his intellect to create Iron Man: a semi-indestructible alter-ego who he vows will do good for the world. It seemed that recent comic book adaptations could do one of two things; either go down the overtly dark route (Batman Begins) or embrace the cheesiness to varying degrees of success (Daredevil, Fantastic Four). What we have here is the ultimate middle-ground, as the first fully-Marvel-financed production gets the fledgling studio's ball rolling in spectacular fashion. Iron Man is essentially an origin story, as we spend the first part of the film focusing on Stark and his moral 180, having been holed up in a cave for three months. Director Favreau casts a comedic shadow over proceedings, which suits his star fine; Downey has been on a roll since the outstanding Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and here embodies the flawed superhero with so much personality it'd be difficult to imagine anyone else filling the suit. One part overachieving Daddy's boy, three parts combustible charisma, his Tony Stark is easily a match for his iron-clad counterpart and the star has a great time playing both. Although somewhat of a given with an $183 million budget, the special effects here are excellent, with Favreau blending the CGI and more practical sequences to near-seamless affect. The action is predominantly what this film is being sold on though - and while it's far from the explosion-a-minute shenanigans of last year's Transformers, it's all the more enjoyable for it. Time is taken in building up to the sequences through handling Stark's plight with patience, and this serves the production well as a whole. Sure, as with any franchise starter, there are some flaws; but they're mostly inconsequential pacing quibbles that are hard to notice, unless you're looking for them. Blockbuster season is here - and quite frankly, the spark that lit the flame for summer 08's big hitters is unlikely to shine brighter. An absolute blast.
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