Is it summer already? The first of the big budget superhero blockbusters has arrived, and it's a roaring success, thanks to a combination of superb special effects and canny casting. Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark, an amoral weapons manufacturer who acquires a conscience and a suit of power armour when he is kidnapped by generic middle eastern baddies. Back home, he rebuilds his suit and takes to the skies, to rain fiery justice on warmongers foreign and domestic.
Put in such simple terms, Iron Man sounds like just another gung ho wet dream of American militarism: Rambo with an exoskeleton. But while Iron Man is undoubtedly simplistic, a light and larky tone carries the movie easily over potential political pitfalls. Stark, a humming dynamo of energy and humour in Downey Jr's delightful performance, is far more appealing that the stodgy, guilt-ridden heroes of Batman and Spider-Man. While he operates on his own steely moral code, there's none of that tiresome bitching about the burden of responsibility. Iron Man understands that being a superhero is supposed to be fun.
"LOOKS LIKE A MUSCLE CAR ON LEGS"
Downey is well supported by Gwyneth Paltrow, giving it loads of sass as Stark's unfazeable PA Pepper Potts, and by Jeff Bridges, playing it nasty for once as our hero's manipulative corporate boss. Jon Favreau shoots the plentiful action with elan, and the production design of the Iron Man suits is top notch - he looks like a muscle car on legs. Iron Man's only real fault is an underwhelming climax, but by then it has amassed enough goodwill to keep audiences happy. Roll on the sequel.
Iron Man is out in the UK on 2nd May 2008.