“Iron Man” – Susan Granger reviews

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What happens when a hip, new superhero appears? He attacks corporate amorality, skewering the military/industrial complex, and changes the geo-political landscape. Too bad he can’t run for President.

When arrogant billionaire playboy/weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is in Afghanistan demonstrating his company’s new Jericho missile, he’s kidnapped by insurgents who bomb his convoy. Awakening in a cave, he learns his life has been saved by doctor (Shaun Toub) who implants an electromagnetic device to keep the shrapnel from piercing his heart. While the terrorist leader, Raza (Faran Tahir) demands that he replicate a Jericho out of spare parts, Tony secretly makes a high-tech suit of armor and escapes, looking a bit like the Michelin Man. But his life has been changed.

Back in his Malibu mountaintop mansion, he’s determined to stop making armaments and use his knowledge to wreak vengeance on his captors and save humanity, much to the surprise of his manipulative guardian/mentor (Jeff Bridges), loyal assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow), military liaison (Terrence Howard) and an investigative reporter (Leslie Bibb).

While the making-of-a-superhero story is formulaic, by assembling a high-caliber cast, headed by gifted Robert Downey Jr., director Jon Favreau (“Elf,” “Swingers”) elevates the superhero concept, making it hip, augmenting the imagery with metallic touches from “Iron Giant” and reminiscent tinges of the reclusive lifestyle of Howard Hughes. And credit production designer J. Michael Riva and cinematographer Matthew Libatique for convincing us that there’s really a man with a soul propelling that special effects suit.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Iron Man” is a nifty 9. Make no mistake, though. It’s Robert Downey Jr., having triumphed over his substance abuse battle, who puts the pedal to the metal and scores the freshest new franchise going.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.