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Iron Man

One disc/two disc; Paramount; $29.99/$39.99

Reviewed by Richard von Busack

Jon Favreau's smashing adventure contrasts the tender flesh with the crunchy shell. The hero's scarlet and gold armor (designed by Stan Winston) is gorgeous, like a wrathful Art Deco statue come to life. As Errol Flynn did, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark sometimes reflects scroungy misdeeds offscreen; the black-dyed beard and mustache recall past-their-prime swashbucklers. Iron Man doesn't celebrate the arms trade. Stark, a happy, slick and amoral billionaire munitions maker, is carried away by Afghan insurgents and saved by a jerrybuilt prosthetic, powered by a car battery. In captivity, Stark heals and hammers together a suit of armor. Thus begins his career as a supersonic "rocket mensch" (vide Thomas Pynchon) on a mission to destroy the weapons he once made. The film suffers from a paucity of villains. As Stark's life-saving secretary, "Pepper" Potts, Gwyneth Paltrow settles right into her comfort zone as an actress. As for the man himself, he is a nonchalant, streamlined superhero ("OK, I can fly"). The suaveness lasts right to the last moment, where in four words Stark eliminates the most predicable parts of the superhero lore and comes out in favor of honesty. Downey, like this film, has the right stuff. The single-disc release comes with some additional scenes; the two-disc Ultimate Edition loads on the extras with lots of background and making-of minidocs, with an emphasis on the special effects, and featurettes about the comic book.

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