From Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures comes Iron Man, an action-packed take on the tale of wealthy philanthropist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who develops an invulnerable robotic suit to fight the throes of evil. In addition to being filthy rich, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark is also a genius inventor. When Stark is kidnapped and forced to build a diabolical weapon, he instead uses his intelligence and ingenuity to construct an indestructible suit of armor and escape his captors. Once free, Stark discovers a deadly conspiracy that could destabilize the entire globe, and dons his powerful new suit on a mission to stop the villains and save the world. Gwyneth Paltrow co-stars as his secretary, Virginia "Pepper" Potts, while Terrence Howard fills the role of Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, one of Stark's colleagues, whose military background leads him to help in the formation of the suit.
Not many directors can claim they've made three great films in a row. However, actor-turned-director Jon Favreau (who makes a small appearance in this movie as "Hogan") can say so after striking gold a few years ago with the holiday film Elf, following it up with the family adventure film Zathura and now jumpstarting a franchise with 2008's Iron Man. Thanks to the success of superhero movies like Spider-Man, X-Men, and more recently, the reboot of the Batman franchise, films like Iron Man have been made possible. And since Favreau seems to have a good knowledge of what makes a good, serious superhero film, Iron Man has made it to the big screen in style.
I have to kind of mention right off the bat the biggest problem with Iron Man, however -- its content. Iron Man isn't like the Spider-Man films in which the only downside may be some violence or one (maybe two) moderately disturbing scenes. Instead, Iron Man has a very adult tone throughout. This isn't your Happy Meal superhero. Tony Stark is a womanizing billionaire jerk who has to get his world rattled before he starts seeing a bit clearer. In the first few minutes of the movie, his womanizing ways are addressed and then ever so briefly "undressed" in what becomes a quick fling between him and a sexy reporter in his bedroom. While it's just them passionately making out in a state of undress before falling off the bed, it's a reminder that this isn't the PG film you can take your young ones to. Tony Stark isn't Peter Parker by any stretch of the imagination.
With that said, the movie plays out a lot more like Batman Begins than anything. It's dark, it's edgy, it's comical but ultimately serious. There's no camp. Stark isn't a goof - he's self-entertaining. Everything humorous is really for his own amusement, but is also funny for us. He's not goofing off like a Brendan Fraser or a younger Tom Hanks. The comedy is almost entirely witty dialog or a surprise physical gag (like a technicality going awry that isn't especially goofy, it's just a needed laugh at the right moment). Favreau plays his cards right with Iron Man. Stark isn't a laughing matter, so the situations turn realistic more often than not. Whether he's realizing his wicked ways for what they are and trying to change them, or trying to battle terrorists over in Afghanistan, situations are just a bit more on the realistic side. And by the time we have a central villain identified - no one's some kind of otherworldly super villain - it's kept more grounded and believable.
With that, it must be noted that the special effects are really something fantastic. There's hardly a moment when you're pulled out of the reality of the situation to be able to point out CGI versus real life. Iron Man's suit is utterly amazing and to watch it in action is a real joy. By the time we get that pay off to see Stark in the suit beat the pants off some baddies, there's this giddy sense of enjoyment to see what that baby can do. Robert Downey Jr. is surprisingly an inspired choice to play the title character. He may have been one of my least likely choices for this kind of role, but it's his intensity and wit and charm that make Iron Man such a great hero. And this movie is only the beginning, so it's really just the start of what could be something grand. Gwenyth Paltrow's a lovely addition to the cast as Pepper Potts, along with Terence Howard and Jeff Bridges. Everyone turns in great performances, and you kind of have to give kudos to Favreau for bringing out the best in them.
Besides the film feeling a little long at times, the only problem, again, is content. Along with some suggestive comments and the sensuality (mostly in the beginning), there is a handful of mild profanity, including a couple uses of "S.O.B," one of Jesus' name, and a couple derivatives of "God." Also, the violence is pretty intense at times. In the opening scene where some military vehicles are ambushed (no worries if you're afraid I'm spoiling anything - it's in the trailers), we see some military people shot up outside a vehicle (from Tony's perspective inside the vehicle), and it's brutal, but not graphic. The grossest and most intense thing aside from people being shot up or blown up (or doused in flames via flamethrower), is the magnet in Stark's chest. We see some blood on him early on in some scenes, including some scarring around the magnet on his chest, and then later see the magnet removed and replaced more than once in his chest (which isn't graphic, but the idea of it is kind of gross). In one instance, Pepper helps him disconnect the device and replace it and we hear some squishy sounds and see some gooey residue on her hands. The idea is more graphic than the actual imagery, but it's not exactly Saturday Morning Cartoon kid-friendly kind of stuff.
Overall, Iron Man is a truly impressive superhero flick. Jon Favreau has his best work on his hands here, even if he's inserted some edgy material that hamper it from really being the kind of movie you can bring the whole family to. I'd like to see the sexual content and some of the violence toned down a bit for the rumored sequel in a couple years, but I suppose only time will tell. Oh, and stick around after the credits for sure. It sets things up nicely for the sequel or a spin-off.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/1/08)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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