Elementally Flawed 'Iron Man' Not Striking Sparks

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Robert Downey Jr. in 'Iron Man' i

Billionaire weapons inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) builds a heavily armored suit to escape his kidnappers in Iron Man. Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures
Robert Downey Jr. in 'Iron Man'

Billionaire weapons inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) builds a heavily armored suit to escape his kidnappers in Iron Man.

Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures
Iron Man i

After learning of an evil plot that threatens the world's safety, Tony Stark uses his super-armored suit to foil the plan and protect the world as Iron Man. Industrial Light and Magic/Paramount Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Industrial Light and Magic/Paramount Pictures
Iron Man

After learning of an evil plot that threatens the world's safety, Tony Stark uses his super-armored suit to foil the plan and protect the world as Iron Man.

Industrial Light and Magic/Paramount Pictures

It's May, and the season of summer movies is upon us, and this year the march of the would-be blockbusters begins with the debut of Marvel Studios' much-ballyhooed Iron Man.

Wait, "Iron Man"? This is the name for a superhero? Shouldn't the handle for a fighter for truth and justice be something sleek and modern, like "Titanium Man"? Or even "Uranium Al"? Isn't "Iron Man" a little old-school for today's computer-generated movie franchise world?

Don't tell that to the folks at super-profitable Marvel Studios. So here comes Iron Man, following gamely in the footsteps of Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk and Daredevil.

Robert Downey Jr. gives an engaging performance as billionaire playboy Tony Stark, a second-generation inventor and armaments manufacturer. He's the kind of guy who divides his time between womanizing and accepting accolades for being a visionary genius and American patriot.

Iron Man also offers some slick verbal sparring between Stark and his loyal assistant Pepper Potts — yes, that really is her name. (She's played by Gwyneth Paltrow.)

But though its hero is named after an element, this movie is an alloy, a combination of disconnected components. Two different writing teams worked on separate but equal versions of the script, and that "One from Column A, one from Column B" approach just doesn't work.

There are simply too many Tony Starks. Besides the glib playboy, there's the dour captive of jihadists, the obsessed inventor, the angry Human Rights Watch monitor on steroids, the unbeatable superhero.

With all these Tonys piling up, Iron Man gets so overloaded that it threatens to become The Man Who Fell to Earth — heavily.

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