Iron Man (2008)

6 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Iron Man” is a superhero movie that is quite surprising in how it’s presented, but nonetheless exceptional as a result. Its story structure is standard for a superhero-origin-tale, but not so much, necessarily, is how it views its hero and how he reacts to his situations or relates to those around him. But it’s not saying that it isn’t entertaining, because at the same time, “Iron Man” presents some nifty action sequences as well as special effects (which are used to serve the story). This is a superhero movie that is about something. It’s gripping, well-made, funny when it needs to be, and also rather awesome when it needs to be.

Based on the Marvel comic book series, “Iron Man” tells the origin story of weapons manufacturer Tony Stark as he becomes the awesome heroic figure simply known as “Iron Man.” Tony is introduced as a wealthy, brilliant yet naïve playboy who has a creative, ingenious mind and a tendency to slack off. When in Afghanistan to present his latest weapon, from his company Stark Industries, he is attacked and captured, brought to a cave by his captors. He is healed from his serious injuries with an electromagnet attached to his torso to keep bits of irremovable shrapnel from his heart. He is kept alive to build a new lethal weapon for his guerilla captors. But instead, he spends his time building something they didn’t expect—a way out. Using his limited resources, he is able to build a bulletproof, armed, metal suit and uses it to escape and make his way back home. Upon his return, he makes a few changes—he shuts down Stark Industries’ weapons division and decides to make a few improvements on the suit’s design. For instance, he stabilizes flight and gives it more perfection in the weapon implants it has.

While “Iron Man” does have its share of action, as Iron Man must destroy a rebel base full of weapons (manufactured by Stark industries, in an ironic twist) and also battle an ultimate antagonist with a similar suit of armor, this film is more of a character story, particularly in the way Stark develops his personality throughout the movie. Here’s a guy who has a luxurious, ignorant outlook on his life, not fully knowing what his company is really doing or even how he is with the people around him—those include his loyal Girl Friday, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow); his best friend, Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard); and his no-nonsense business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). Once he has had his eye-opening experience in the cave, and knowing that these ruthless guerillas are the main ones purchasing his company’s weapons, a sense of alarming alertness overcomes him. He now knows he has to do something about this.

Robert Downey, Jr. is this movie. He’s an inspired choice to play the role of “hero,” and Downey makes it his own, giving it a great amount of wit, flair, and energy (even more so than most superhero-movie protagonists). He dominates the screen throughout, as he should. He’s downright brilliant and so charismatic for us to follow him all through the movie. And he has a sharp wit that comes with the character, making him all the more entertaining to watch and listen to.

There’s also a solid supporting cast. Gwyneth Paltrow, as Tony’s Girl Friday and possible love-interest, is quite appealing, and she and Downey share engaging banter on par with Bond-and-Moneypenny talk; they’re great together. Jeff Bridges plays pretty much the main villain, but a good move on the film’s part is that he’s not clearly identified as such a role (but you don’t necessarily deny it, because he seems quite slick).

Thankfully, director Jon Favreau knows not to have this superhero origin-story aimed for mostly teenage boys. There is some good action, aided by well-done special effects (that don’t show up the actors, thankfully), but there’s more to it in setting up the story, developing the characters, and showing their plight and conceptions. There’s a nice, smooth pacing going with the film, and strangely enough, it doesn’t feel like the average superhero movie. Oh, there are elements existent so that superhero fans won’t be disappointed. But there’s more to it than that. It includes numerous details, some of which you wouldn’t expect, and it brings you into most of them so that you really get an understanding for this tale. “Iron Man” is a solid film, a worthy successor in the superhero-movie genre.

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