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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

WHO IS THE IRON MAN?: Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, standing) ministers some minor first aid to Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) who is enjoying reading a story in the local paper about his latest exploits as the Iron Man.

Iron Man:Downey Is Superhero in Adaptation of Comic Book Series

Kam Williams

Created by Stan Lee in April of 1963, Iron Man was first introduced in Marvel Comics’ Tales of Suspense (issue no. 39). According to the animator, the crime-fighting superhero’s alter ego, wealthy industrialist/inventor Tony Stark, was inspired by eccentric millionaire playboy Howard Hughes.

The character proved popular enough to warrant spin-offs not only into a comic book series but also into a TV cartoon as well, and now it has become a movie.

The live-action adventure features Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role, where the star gives a performance guaranteed to resuscitate his career. Downey manages to humanize the Iron Man character to a degree rarely seen when a macho superhero is moved to a feature film. Considerable credit in this regard must go to director Jon Favreau, whose science-fiction film Zathura, was able to engage the imaginations of both children and adults.

Iron Man unfolds as if it were the first installment in a series by taking the time to acquaint us with the protagonist’s background rather than rushing headlong into elaborate fight sequences. Along the way, a few subtle hints are also dropped about what might be in store in Iron Man 2 and beyond.

Early in the film Tony Stark, the CEO of Stark Industries, is shown to be a wealthy, womanizing genius. He was, however, conspicuously absent from the festivities at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas where he was to receive an award for his company’s service to the country as its leading weapons manufacturer.

Instead, the absent bon vivant was trying to impress an attractive reporter (Leslie Bibb) at his sprawling oceanfront estate in Malibu. Fortunately, his faithful servant and secret admirer Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is always around to get her boss’s nose back to the grindstone.

The plot thickens soon after he lands in Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest invention, the Jericho Missile, to the U.S. military brass. En route, the Humvee in which he’s riding is hit by a roadside bomb, and he ends up in a cave controlled by terrorists. Tony can’t help but notice that his captors have somehow obtained weaponry produced by his company. And worse, they now want him to build the next generation of missiles for them.

What his captors don’t know is that Stark has a fragment of shrapnel embedded in his chest so close to his heart that, if it shifts, it will kill him. So, while pretending to be working for the terrorists, Stark is secretly building himself a suit of armor which contains a powerful electromagnet designed to prevent the shrapnel from reaching his heart. When the suit is completed, he dons it to become Iron Man and then escapes and returns to the States. Once there he shocks the defense establishment by announcing that Stark Industries is shutting down its munitions manufacturing division.

This decision doesn’t sit well with either his right hand-man, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), nor with his liaison Lieutenant Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) from the Department of Defense. But Stark remains resolute in his decision and launches an investigation to find out how his munitions landed in the hands of the enemy, even if that means he must don that Iron Man suit one more time and kill in the name of peace.

A ‘Marvel’-ously cerebral superhero with a conscience.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for intense violence and brief suggestive content. Running time: 126 minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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