IRON MAN – review

Published May 3, 2008

Despite the date, despite the weather, summer has officially arrived in the form of an iron clad, alcoholic, womanizing, weapons manufacturer. Marvel Studios’ Iron Man (the first comic book film to be produced strictly by its parent, Paramount only did marketing on this one) is a knock out. Before seeing it, I heard some critics compare it to Spider-Man 2. Is it as good as that amazing sequel? Not quite. But it is far better than Spidey 3.
IRON MAN poster
Robert Downey Jr. amazes as Tony Stark, the aforementioned alter ego of our titular hero. After being kidnapped in Afghanistan (by someone who might as well be Osama Bin Laden), he is threatened with death if he doesn’t make some missiles. If you’ve seen the trailer, you already know that Stark does not bow to this threat. He builds instead a flying, decked out, nearly indestructible suit of iron, and busts his way out of hell. While doing so, this cocky playboy also has a crisis of conscience which makes him question his line of work.

This does not go down well with Tony’s partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who with full beard and shaved head (looking verrrrrrrrrrry un-Dude) will eventually become Tony’s arch enemy, Iron Monger. Bridges – in my opinion, the most underrated American actor of the last 30 years – does excellent work here, lending just the right amount of gravitas to the proceedings.

Gwyneth Paltrow also gives fine support as Tony’s assistant, Pepper Potts. I hate to mix Marvel and DC metaphors, but she’s like Alfred Pennyworth to Stark’s Bruce Wayne … only a lot easier on the eyes. Love the way she “takes out the trash.”

Director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Elf) gives his own career a rocket-powered boost with this solid effort – a sequel was greenlit two days before the movie opened. Favreau has a couple of cameos as Stark’s bodyguard/chauffeur, Happy Hogan. When asked about the controversial casting of Downey, the director said, “The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That’s Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic-book character who is having trouble in high school, or can’t get the girl.” A “likable asshole” was needed for the role, and Downey was able to pull off dual feat, winning the audiences approval many times over during the film.

Inarguably, Robert Downey Jr. is the STAR of this very entertaining movie. His nuanced performance has equal amounts humor, swagger, and pathos. It is also refreshing to have superhero pushing middle age (Downey is 43). By the time Tony utters his perfectly pitched, final line of dialogue, and cues up the Black Sabbath song the audience has been waiting to hear for two hours (much like Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), he has earned the right to say it.

It takes a long time to actually see Iron Man in action in the film, but the set-up is so brilliant, the payoff is worth the wait. The bigger and better sequel will not have this problem. Make sure you stay through the final credits for a very cool surprise.

Like a hip cross between Transformers and The Rocketeer, Iron Man soars.

IRON MAN – B+


IRON MAN – theatrical trailer