Iron Man Review

Somehow I didn’t have a review of the Marvel movie that started it all on this site, so in honor of “Endgame,” I’m pulling this one from the archives dated May 2, 2008, which, you know, was the day it came out. I’ve done better work, but there are a lot of points here that speak loudly to the future success of Marvel Studios.

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-based film and is probably the best thing to happen to Marvel Studios since Spider-Man 2 — that’s nearly four years of a lot of money with disappointing delivery. A good start for the first film fully produced by the studio with no additional funding.

Iron Man is not the most well-loved of Marvel characters, but at this point in the Marvel film 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 on Iron Man and fighting evil, a wonderful choice by the writers. Downey Jr.’s standard witty comedic acting fits this perfectly as finally there is a superhero with a sense of humor. “Iron Man” could be the funniest of all superhero films, or at least it certainly beats the awkward attempts of “Spider-Man 3.” 

Marvel was way overdue for introducing a new character after the third installments of Fox’s “X- Men” and Sony’s “Spider-Man” franchises. An origin story — the reason why those other franchises took off — was in order. Those third films were fantastic in many ways, but failed because they tried to do too much and “Iron Man” doesn’t. The plot is straightforward.

Now there have been other Marvel origin films “Hulk” and “Daredevil,” for example, that fail as well. “Iron Man” is better than those films because it is so focused on Stark’s character. This is interesting and fascinating because of the visual effects and the sheer creativity of those behind the concept of what his suit could actually do. A lot of scenes are test scenes and while not much is going on, they’re really cool and captivating. There’s no law that superheroes have to spend most of their time as the hero and fighting. “Iron Man” doesn’t do that — it 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 isn’t bad.

The supporting cast really helps too. Jeff Bridges in his first truly evil role as Stark’s adviser turned-bad, Obadiah Stane, is great, Paltrow provides a nice change of pace as Stark’s personal assistant Pepper Potts and even Terrence Howard is likable as Stark’s friend and military ally, Jim Rhodes.

The only thing to complain about “Iron Man” is that there wasn’t enough. So much time, though rightly so, 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 all there, but it doesn’t get as much attention as it should. A second viewing might bring those themes home more.

Jon Favreau should get 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 just a lot of great realism to this film than previous films too focused on great one-liners and the like, which is what someone like Favreau of the “dude romantic comedy” persuasion can bring to a genre in so much need of that normal/ human touch.

4.5/5 Stars

Iron Man
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Otsby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard


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