Iron Man Jon Favreau

Iron Man Jon Favreau
From the stable of Marvel characters created by Stan "gee whiz true believers” Lee in the mid-to late ’60s, most are fantasy figures, from teenager Peter Parker to super-teams like The X-Men and Fantastic Four, born of improbable accidents and evolving into ever more outrageous circumstances. Lee created his own reality and its own attendant rules.

Iron Man is one of Lee’s creations; he lives and participates in the Marvel universe familiar to fans of Daredevil or Spider-Man. But arms dealer, womaniser and serious alcoholic Tony Stark, who dons several iterations of a titanium suit to fight baddies and keep his troubled ticker pumping, is much darker than his Marvel buddies.

In his first such film, director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. keep Stark rooted somewhat in reality. It’s a billionaire’s reality of endless privilege, beautiful women and high tech gadgetry to be sure, but the "super” in this super-hero is hard work and perseverance. Though it nods occasionally to its larger context, Iron Man is more hardware than spandex, more sweaty than super-heroic.

Beautifully cast, Downey Jr. gives Tony Stark the demeanour of a spoiled child, attended to by assistant Pepper Potts (to which Gwyneth Paltrow brings a loyal intelligence) and military advisor Jim Rhodes (an underwritten and underutilised Terrence Howard). Following an attack by terrorists armed by Stark Industries tech, Tony goes do-gooder to the chagrin of business partner Obadiah Stane (a bald, bearded, cigar-chomping Jeff Bridges).

But most of Iron Man consists of the will of one man - and one actor’s portrayal of him - in a similarly obsessive way as another non-powers-equipped hero, the Batman. By making their Tony Stark real, smart, clever, flawed and ultimately redeemable, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau have launched themselves to the top of superhero franchises, and they’ll make plenty more true believers along the way. (Paramount)