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:: Iron Man

The only thing good about the beginning of winter is that it neatly coincides with Hollywood’s blockbuster season. At least we can spend our time shading our selves from the bitter cold by sampling another year’s worth of startling CGI effects and film resurrections of long lost superheroes. The first cab of the rank this year is Iron Man, undoubtedly one of all the Marvel characters.

It is so refreshing to see a full on alpha male as a super hero again. Gone are the achingly bookish charms of Toby Maguire and offbeat casting of Christian Bale as the role model of what is all good and vulnerable in society. In Iron Man’s alter-ego, Tony Sparks, we have an unapologetic womaniser whose lust for success is only matched by his affection for the grog. If this is not enough to raise the eye brows of unsuspecting parents, in the first fifteen minutes we see Sparks advocate war, have a one night stand, and has his air hostesses’ pole dancing in his private jet.

But all of these shenanigans are quickly put to an end when Sparks is kidnapped by Afghani Terrorists and ordered to create one of his killer designer weapons. Instead, Sparks – who in his parallel universe must have been a fan of MacGyver – uses his intellect to create a suit of armour out of the odd flame thrower and rockets lying around to blast his way out of captivity.

Energised by his new invention and realisation that there is more to life than creating death machines, Sparks decides to take his new company into a different direction. This is done to the stern opposition of his mentor and business partner Obadiah Stone, who is convinced that Sparks new found heart is not suitable for the weapons business. Thus he initiates a battle for the company which spirals into something more sinister and deadly.

There is nothing completely new about the plot line as it follows the standard hero’s journey from ignorance to change, but the delight in Iron Man is that it is done with a great deal of respect not only to the comic’s history, but most importantly to its audience.

Unlike Michael Bay’s Transformers, which seemed to hold such issues such as character development with contempt, Iron Man’s director Jon Favreau takes his time in building up his characters so by the time the eventual explosive pay off arrives, the audience are emotionally hooked.

This is also down to the top notch performances by the film’s A Grade cast. You can tell that Robert Downey Jr. is having a real hoot in portraying Tony Spark with all his sly wit and neurotic chatter. Gwyneth Paltrow succeeds in giving the film’s only notable female character, Sparks’s loyal assistant Pepper Potts, a sense of dignity and grace. Indeed, most of the films best lines belong to Paltrow. While Geoff Bridges showcases his depth once again in playing the shape shifting Obadiah Stone, Iron Man’s nemesis.

Iron Man can be comfortably chalked up as another in a long list of successes for the Marvel Entertainment empire. It is easily the most brainy and fun out of the series. If they can retain the services of Favreau, Downey Jr and Paltrow for the inevitable sequel, the future looks extremely bright for the franchise and our next few winters.