STEVE INSKEEP, host:
For those whose appetites run more toward testosterone we have this review from Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.
KENNETH TURAN: "Iron Man?" 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.
It's got an engaging performance by Robert Downey Jr., who plays engaging billionaire inventor and playboy Tony Stark. He's a second-generation weapons manufacturer, who divides his time between womanizing and accepting accolades for being a visionary genius and American patriot.
(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man")
Ms. LESLIE BIBB (As Christine Everhart): Mr. Stark! Christine Everhart, Vanity Fair magazine. Can I ask you a couple of questions?
Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (As Tony Stark): ...Hi. Yeah.
Ms. BIBB: Hi. OK?
Mr. DOWNEY: OK, go.
Ms. BIBB: You've been called the da Vinci of our times. What do you say to that?
Mr. DOWNEY: Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint.
And what do you say to your other nickname - the Merchant of Death?
Mr. DOWNEY: That's not bad.
TURAN: Iron Man also offers some slick verbal sparring between Stark and his loyal assistant Pepper Potts — yes, that really is her name - played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
(Soundbite of movie, "Iron Man")
Ms. GWYNETH PALTROW (As Pepper Potts): The MIT commencement speech...
Mr. DOWNEY: Is in June. Please don't harangue me about this stuff.
Ms. PALTROW: Well, they're haranguing me.
Mr. DOWNEY: It's way, way, way down.
Ms. PALTROW: ...so I'm going to say yes.
Mr. DOWNEY: No, just let them absorb it. Don't transmit...
Ms. PALTROW: I need you to sign this before you get on the plane.
Mr. DOWNEY: What are you trying to get rid of me for? What do you have plans?
Ms. PALTROW: As a matter of fact I do.
Mr. DOWNEY: I don't like it when you have plans.
Ms. PALTROW: I'm allowed to have plans on my birthday.
Mr. DOWNEY: It's your birthday.
Ms. PALTROW: Yes.
TURAN: 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.
So we get 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 and the unbeatable superhero.
With all these Tonys piling up, it's not surprising that Iron Man gets so overloaded it threatens to become The Man Who Fell to Earth — heavily.
INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan is org super hero movie critic. And you can see clips from "Iron Man" at npr.org/movies.
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