The Science Behind Iron Man's Super Suit After learning of an evil plot that puts the world at peril, billionaire weapons inventor Tony Stark designs a super-armored suit that helps him foil the plan and save the earth. Prof. James Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, talks about the science of the action flick Iron Man.
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The Science Behind Iron Man's Super Suit

The Science Behind Iron Man's Super Suit

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90190973/90190960" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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After learning of an evil plot that puts the world at peril, billionaire weapons inventor Tony Stark designs a super-armored suit that helps him foil the plan and save the earth.

Prof. James Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, talks about the science of the action flick Iron Man.

'Iron Man': Suddenly, Snark Is A Super-Power

Snark attack: Iron Man's strength lies largely in its hero's attitude. Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures hide caption

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Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures

Snark attack: Iron Man's strength lies largely in its hero's attitude.

Zade Rosenthal/Paramount Pictures
  • Director: Jon Favreau
  • Genre: Action
  • Running Time: 126 minutes

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The snark in most superhero movies resides mostly with the villains -- Spidey slings more webs than sarcasm; Superman would rather land punches than punchlines.

But with Robert Downey Jr. wearing Iron Man's armor, there was never any doubt that this new Marvel franchise would make its snarkiness central. No one throws away a line with more style than Downey -- not even Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond model -- and the dozen or so screenwriters it took to turn this comic book story into a storyline have given him plenty to throw away as Tony Stark, irrepressibly irresponsible gazillionaire munitions-maker.

Director Jon Favreau blows up a lot of stuff right at the top, then takes his time establishing characters -- Terrence Howard as Stark's comparatively down-to-earth best bud, Gwyneth Paltrow as his lovesick secretary, Jeff Bridges as his nemesis -- and more time getting the hero into that metal suit.

Downey proves hilariously limber in the Blake Edwards–ish slapstick with which he finally learns to fly, but the plot proves less limber, especially in a routine wrap-up where a pair of bulging metalmen have at each other digitally.

Early on, though, when bad boy Stark is trying to rehabilitate himself and Downey's bad-boy rep is dovetailing neatly, the movie zips along. If every superhero franchise had a Robert Downey Jr., the genre might actually be watchable again.