Dir: Jon Favreau
Star: Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard
An impressive adaptation of the comic-book, this sees billionaire arms manufacturer Tony Stark (Downey) captured in the Middle East, by terrorists who want him to make his Jericho missiles for them. Create, he certainly does. However, the result is instead a super-powered, heavily-armed, heavily-armoured suit, capable of flying, which he uses to escape – and then declares his company will no longer sell weapons. The rest of the board, led by Obadiah Stane (Bridges), are less than impressed by this, and Stark eventually discovers the sales have continued, under the table – including to the group who kidnapped him. While he works to improve the suit, and deals with that threat; Stane has got the remnants of the original and is developing it himself.
Downey nails the role of Stark, completely: difficult to imagine anyone who could be more appropriate for the womanizing playboy, who eventually rediscovers his moral compass. It’s a character arc that, to some extent, mirrors Downey’s own descent into substance abuse, and apparent rebirth since, culminating in his ascension as the star of one of the biggest movies of 2008, worldwide – trailing only Indy 4 and The Dark Knight.
But the other aspects of the film mesh very nicely, from his assistant, Miss Potts (Paltrow, the obligatory Oscar-winning actress slumming it in a big action flick: see also Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett] through to the sarcastic AI in his office. While all the action sequences are solid, the finale deserves to be used by Michael Bay, as a lesson in what giant robots fighting should look like. If it may not be the best comic-book adaptation of the year, it’s not far short. And yes: they do play the Black Sabbath song, over the end credits; stay through those for a bonus moment.