Ealasaid/ May 5, 2008/ Movie Reviews and Features, Writing

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges
Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.
Parental Notes: This is a fairly-rated PG-13 film. The action is intense but not gruesome and the sensuality is there but with less nudity than you’d see at a public pool.

First, a confession: I have never read a single “Iron Man” comic. I know of the character, but largely from reading Wikipedia out of curiosity after seeing the movie trailer. So, I can’t really judge whether fans of the source material will enjoy the film. I can say, however, that I loved it. Sure, it’s pretty ridiculous in spots, but it’s a superhero movie — if you can’t suspend your disbelief pretty darn thoroughly, you have no business even buying a ticket.
The story is at bottom a change-of-heart tale. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., “Zodiac”) is an irresponsible, womanizing, hard-drinking genius, a brilliant weapons designer and CEO who is unbelievably wealthy because his company’s weapons are the best. When he is kidnapped by terrorists wielding weapons he designed, his eyes are opened to the horrors he has unleashed. He constructs a a suit of powered armor so he and a fellow prisoner can escape, and returns home looking to change the direction of his company.
He soon finds himself on a forced mental health leave, shut out by the board of directors. He puts the time to good use, improving his armor design and turning himself into a superhero. Good thing, too, because when he learns that his second-in-command has been selling weapons under the table to terrorists, he is able fly off to destroy their weapons caches. Of course, no self-respecting supervillain would stand for that kind of behavior, and soon Tony finds himself up against a foe who poses a serious threat to his life and his new ideals.
Downey is fantastic, turning in a better performance than the film requires. His own life experiences seem to have helped him fit into the role of someone living in the public eye and struggling with his identity, and he is able to win the audience over even while being the party-hardy jerk of the film’s first act.
The rest of the cast mostly rise to meet him. Many of the roles are thoroughly one-dimensional, but nobody seems to be sleepwalking through their parts. Gwyneth Paltrow puts in a good turn as Stark’s assistant and nascent love interest Pepper Potts, and Jeff Bridges leaves a few teeth marks in the scenery as the grandfatherly villain, Obadiah Stane. Terrance Howard is given the thankless task of being Jim Rhodes, the military straight man to Tony Stark’s playboy. He steps up and plays the role seriously, though, which is good. I hope if there are sequels he’ll be given a bit more to do than shake his head ruefully at Tony’s antics.
The special effects, always vitally important to this sort of film, are wonderful. There are plenty of exciting explosions, gunfire bouncing off nigh-indestructible shields, and the various armored suits are works of art, each in their own way. Stan Winston Studios and Industrial Light and Magic worked together to create physical and digital effects which meld together very, very well. The days of cheesy CGI effects seem to be over.
“Iron Man” is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Sure, there are some pretty ludicrous events that have to be overlooked — stretch your suspension of disbelief muscles beforehand or you might sprain something — but the film overall is a fun ride. A trifle predictable in spots (aren’t all superhero movies?), but with enough humor, action, and good acting to help us be forgiving. This is a big summer movie come a little early, and well worth paying to see on the big screen if you’re into that kind of thing. Oh, and a little tip: be sure to stay until after the credits.