Archive Review: Iron Man (2008)

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It’s time to suit up, because the comic film genre has a new face bringing it back to life and it’s a shiny one. “Iron Man” delivers everything you want in a comic book adaptation. It’s also probably the best thing to happen to Marvel Studios since Spider-Man 2 — that’s nearly four years and a lot of money with disappointing delivery. A good start for the first film fully produced by the studio.

Iron Man is not the most well-loved of Marvel characters, but at this point in the Marvel universe, he feels like next logical step to give the comic company a boost in the right direction. The man is Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), a millionaire playboy in the arms-dealing business. On a routine demonstration trip in Afghanistan (updated to the modern era), Stark is captured and held hostage by a rebel band of Afghanis who demand he build them one of his best missiles. Instead, Stark devises a plan to build a suit of armor so he can escape.

A victim of the very weapons he created, Stark’s uniqueness in comparison to other Marvel heroes Stan Lee has created is that he learns the error of his ways, his ignorance to the evil his industry produces, and the experience changes his perspective. It’s not a vengeance story, it’s one of personal redemption.

Downey Jr. carries this film. Not entirely, but the film focuses more on his discovery and creation of Iron Man than it does on him being Iron Man and fighting evil, a wonderful choice by the writers. Downey Jr.’s witty acting fits this perfectly. It must be said: finally there is a superhero with a sense of humor. “Iron Man” is the most genuinely funny superhero film to date, and it certainly beats the awkward attempts of “Spider-Man 3.”

Marvel was way overdue for introducing a new character after the third installments of the X- Men and Spider-Man franchises. An origin story, the reason why those other franchises took off, was in order. As an origin story, Iron Man’s story is not bogged down by excessive characters and the plot is straightforward. There have been other Marvel origin films such as “Hulk” and “Daredevil” that butchered the execution of a good origin story, but “Iron Man”outdoes them by staying zeroed in on Tony Stark and his process of becoming a metallic hero. For example, many of the scenes are of Tony in his lab, testing the Iron Man suit. While not much is going on, they captivate because we see Tony Stark reinventing himself before our eyes in a way we only wish we could ourselves. After all, there’s no law that superheroes have to spend most of their time fighting in costume in a film. “Iron Man” reserves that for the climax of the film and doesn’t dwell there any longer than it must. You want more, but what you do get is satisfying.

The supporting cast really helps too; they’re all really down-to-earth actors which keeps Iron Man out of the pretentious superhero hero film category. Bridges plays his first truly evil role as Stark’s adviser-turned-nemesis, Obadiah Stane, while Paltrow provides a nice change of pace as Stark’s personal assistant Pepper Potts. Even Terrence Howard is likable as Stark’s friend and military ally, Jim Rhodes.

The only thing to complain about in Iron Man” is that there isn’t enough — it lacks that truly epic feel. Those who enjoy this movie will want their cake and to eat it too. So much time, though rightly so as discussed, was spent on Stark’s development of Iron Man that there wasn’t enough room for more awesome action sequences in the suit and most disappointing of all, further thematic development, which is what made “Spider-Man” revolutionary. It’s hard to complain for long that a film had to much focus on character development and not enough action, but when you like a film, you want to get 100 percent from it.

Jon Favreau should receive incredible applause for outdoing the skepticism he unjustly received when it was first revealed he would be at the helm. There are plenty of treats for the comic book fans in this film and there’s great realism to this film than previous films too focused on great one-liners and the like, which is what someone of Favreau’s persuasion can bring to a genre in so much need of that normal/ human touch. Without him, “Iron Man” would not so impressively rocket Marvel into a new era of comic adaptations.

4.5/5

Iron Man (2008)
Directed by Jon Favreau
Screenplay by Hawk Ostby, Marc Fergus, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard

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