Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man (2008)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 6 min.

Release Date: May 2nd, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jon Favreau Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg, Paul Bettany, Peter Billingsley

 


 

W

isely sampling the most reality-grounded aspects of Tony Stark’s origins and adventures in becoming the “Golden Avenger,” director Jon Favreau (and a host of screenwriters) has brilliantly balanced the components that create an entertaining movie. And this is a major feat, considering that the elements for an enjoyable superhero flick are even harder to achieve (particularly with the box office inundated with lackluster attempts). A competent cast of A-list actors and a script that disperses equal levels of wit and poignancy further help “Iron Man” to please both die-hard Marvel fans as well as general audiences seeking a blockbuster thrill ride.

Arrogant, womanizing, playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has it all – beautiful arm candy, a powerful weapons-manufacturing company, and more money than he knows what to do with. But during a business trip to Afghanistan, Stark’s convoy is ambushed and the billionaire is taken hostage by terrorists. In the process, he also sustains a life-threatening injury. With the aid of fellow prisoner Yinsen (Shaun Toub), Stark tricks his captors into believing he will agree to their demands of building a dangerous missile – instead, he devises a technologically advanced robotic suit of armor to assist in their escape. Once freed, Stark reevaluates his life’s work and the lethal side effects of his company’s pursuits, which he so blindly ignored in the wake of profits. Constructing an even more elaborate and effective suit, Stark becomes Iron Man, and vows to save those he has inadvertently placed in harm’s way.

As with the origins film of any superhero franchise, plenty of care must be taken with the development of the primary protagonists. Here, the filmmakers have found a delicate equilibrium between back story and high-flying adventure, leaving “Iron Man” void of any dull moments or insufficient explanations. Action junkies may find the number of fight sequences a little on the slim side, but Stark’s transformation from selfish hedonist to noble do-gooder is interesting enough to counteract the lack of nonstop explosions. In fact, the final showdown in the film is actually rather underwhelming when compared to the engaging progression of Stark’s character, which possesses more heart than visual excesses.

While it may be true to an extent that Robert Downey Jr. has fallen into the steady path of playing himself in every movie, those with a healthy knowledge of the comics will likely concur that Downey’s portrayal of the fast-talking, quirkily sarcastic Tony Stark is exactly as it should be. Downey’s display is believable, flawed, and sympathetic, combining levity and bravado in even measure. And it’s a personality that is easily identifiable with and worth rooting for in the battle against evil. In addition, a surprising amount of humor has found its way into the picture, primarily thanks to Downey’s assured performance and his nicely scripted interactions with an equally capable cast. Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s clever assistant Pepper Potts holds her own against Downey’s scene-stealing verbal antics, and even Terrence Howard as associate Rhodes gets to deliver some slick exchanges. As for the villain, a nearly unrecognizable Jeff Bridges injects the immoral Obadiah Stane with enough maliciousness to create a worthy opponent (save for the slightly overboard lunacy seen in the film’s climax).

Virtually all comic-based entities will undergo harsh scrutiny from their legions of faithful fans, and Iron Man is no different – even though Marvel has dug deep into its library to adapt this lesser-known superhero. And since events in the graphic novels involve everything from time travel to alien dragons, slight artistic changes to the character’s origins to preserve realism (for the sake of a wider audience) should be expected and are definitely not unwelcome. Overall, despite a few minor inconsistencies and faults (such as a convenient over-dependency on technology to solve problems), “Iron Man’s” ability to produce moral complexities and revelations, and affective love and loss amidst action-packed adventure, is a high point for the studio and a promising start for both the crimson hero and this year’s summer slate.

– Joel Massie

  • 8/10