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</script></div>{/googleAds}The words "summer superhero movie" usually evoke thoughts of weak dialogue and anemic plots propped up by over-hyped action sequences and excessive special effects. Perfect for the entertainment-starved tweeners who've been cooped up with Madden '08 and Hannah Montana reruns all winter, but not so good for those who prefer a little meat with their popcorn. While Iron Man certainly marks the beginning of the summer movie season, it carries none of the aforementioned baggage associated with it. Sure, it has plenty of cool superhero action and eye-popping special effects, but the best effects come from its heartfelt story and the humans who bring one of Marvel's least-known comic book franchises to life namely Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Bridges.

In a casting stroke of genius, Downey's bad-boy persona plays perfectly into the role of Tony Stark, a narcissistic, womanizing weapons manufacturer who is first introduced in the back of a humvee, cocktail in hand and portable mini-bar at the ready. While demonstrating his company's latest weapons system, Stark suddenly finds himself held captive by insurgents in a hellhole in the mountains of Afghanistan. There's a brilliant and entertaining irony in the fact that Downey's Stark is brought back from the edge of death and is now being kept alive by a powerful magnet implanted by a friendly Afghan doctor named Yinsen (Shaun Toub), that keeps loose fragments of shrapnel from entering his heart. With a newfound respect for life and a U-turn of the moral compass, Stark eventually escapes from captivity by building a high-tech suit of armor - complete with retro-rockets in the boots and flamethrowers in the palms - rather then the deadly Jericho Missile which the terrorists are itching to get their hands on.

iron ManOnce back in the states, Stark seems dispirited and almost heartbroken when asked about his warmonger ways and the future direction of Stark Industries, the company his father founded and that he now heads. He approaches life reinvigorated after seeing first-hand that his weapons kill innocents as easily as they do bad guys. Stark's change of heart and his vow to repurpose himself - and the company - into a weapon for good is met with instant displeasure by not only the company stockholders, but also second-in-charge and family friend Obadiah Stane, played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges. Stark holes himself in his garage o' fun and begins building a sleeker, more powerful version of the suit with hopes of returning to Afghanistan to destroy other Stark Industries weapons the bad guys have somehow accumulated. At his side are his sexy personal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his best friend Rhodey (Terrence Howard) who, conveniently, is a high-ranking officer in the military.

The decision by writers, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, executive producer Peter Billingsley, and director Jon Favreau to make Iron Man a little different from most comic book to big screen superhero adaptations is really what gives the film a much welcomed sense of place and purpose in a cinematic landscape littered with failed superhero adaptations. It's not the typical story of a superhero that takes on equally capable bad guys in the name of saving the world from evil. Instead, the film is treated purely as a superhero origin story. The filmmakers look at Iron Man as the beginning of a lengthy franchise, and therefore spend plenty of time introducing us to what made this billionaire playboy jet-setter (who Stan Lee says was originally patterned after Hugh Hefner) develop a conscience. We now know the man behind the mask, so when the action sequences do eventually come, they function to serve the story rather than to simply satiate the cravings of action junkies. Iron Man is a superhero movie with substance and because of that, I'm ready for the sequels. Bring 'em on. And as a long-time vocal opponent of sequels, I thought I'd never say that.

Component Grades
4 stars
1 Star
DVD Experience
2.5 stars


DVD Details:

Single-Disc Widescreen Edition

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby True HD; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes.

* Deleted Scenes - 11 scenes that didn't make the final cut
* Trailers - Original theatrical trailer for Iron Man: Armored Adventure

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging