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Iron Man 

The spin Iron Man puts on the usual becoming-a-superhero story is key to its appeal. Tony Stark isn't another of those teenagers who learns he can scale tall buildings. He's a billionaire middle-aged playboy living with an arrogance that Bruce Wayne has always been too broody and reclusive to indulge. Played by Robert Downey Jr., Stark is a fully realized comic-book hero who's more comedic than heroic. But his rebirth as Iron Man is also his ethical wakeup. Having been taken hostage in Afghanistan, Stark rethinks his role in building weapons of mass destruction. This turn of the tide should be handled with more feeling, but director Jon Favreau manages to keep human dimensions interesting in the familiar franchise-intro structure. It's the exact opposite blockbuster of the viscerally beautiful, but not quite human, Speed Racer. Favreau's action only hits occasional highs---when Iron Man rescues a family in their car, their only reaction is to run him over. His first flight sequence should leave viewers elated but, despite Favreau's fantasy '80s metal score, the moment barely has a separate impact from anything else. When Iron Man flies past two kids on a ferris wheel, Favreau shoots it from the entirely wrong perspective so that it's Iron Man seeing kids on a ferris wheel, rather than the wonderment of kids on a ferris wheel seeing Iron Man. The movie could use a shot of visual style, while the treatment of the central character gives it much of its worth.


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