Iron Man (2008)

(In theaters, May 2008) After so many disappointing superhero films leadened by dull origin stories and barely saved (if at all) by their action scenes, it’s refreshing to find that Iron Man is a superb first entry in a franchise that succeeds through sheer attention to character more than impressive pyrotechnics. Robert Downey Jr is absolutely perfect as arrogant super-genius Tony Stark: his bad-boy manners are compelling in simple dialog scenes, lending credence to the theory that superheroes are only as interesting as their secret identities. He makes the film click long before he suits up and punches through tanks. As for the action scenes, they’re not as numerous as you may think (four, maybe five of them) and they definitely take a back step compared to more unconventional scenes in which Stark thinks, designs, refines and tests his Iron Man suit. A decent sense of humor underscores the entire film, and if there are a number of plot issues (not all of them relating to Stark’s medical condition and the steps he takes in order to solve it), the entire film flows far more quickly than one would expect. While there’s still plenty of room for the series to improve (there isn’t much of an antagonist this time around, for instance), this a solid and confident first entry, well worth a look.

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