Movie Reviews

Iron Man

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 9 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

Cast:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes
Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart
Shaun Toub as Yinsen
Faran Tahir as Raza
Sayed Badreya as Abu Bakaar
Bill Smitrovich as General Gabriel
Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
Tim Guinee as Major Allen

Summary:
Iron Man stands out as one of the best comic book movies ever made thanks in large part to a healthy dose of humor, action, and a great performance by Robert Downey Jr.

Story:
Tony Stark has it all. He's a brilliant inventor. He's charming. He's insanely rich. He constantly has beautiful women at his side. Stark doesn't have a care in the world. And he certainly couldn't care less about how weapons manufactured by his company are being used. But that all changes when he's captured by terrorists in Afghanistan.

Mortally wounded, he's saved by Yensen, a fellow prisoner who happens to be a doctor. Yensen shows him how his weapons have been used for death and destruction. He also helps Stark come to realize how there are more important things in life than fame and fortune. Stark is forced to build a missile for the terrorists, but he secretly turns the tables on them and creates the first Iron Man armor instead.

Once Stark is free, he must face a new war at home... within his own company. Can Stark reverse the long history of death and destruction that he's been responsible for?

"Iron Man" is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.

What Worked:
I am a long time "Iron Man" fan. In fact, "Iron Man" is one of the first comics I truly started collecting back in the '80s. I came on board around the time Iron Monger debuted, actually. So it was an incredible treat to see the comic finally brought to the big screen. It was an even bigger treat to see it done so practically flawlessly. I would say this film is on par with the first "Spider-Man" movie.

A large part of the success of "Iron Man" is due to the performance of Robert Downey Jr. He perfectly captures the cocky playboy attitude of Tony before being captured. He's sexist, egotistical, and inconsiderate, yet equally charming, funny, and likable. Very few actors could pull that off, yet Downey does it. He's equally convincing when Stark has his moral compass shifted and decides to become a superhero. Downey injects a ton of humor into his performance and it's never over the top. This is especially apparent in scenes where he's testing the Mark II armor components. He also has great chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. The two have a professional relationship that's walking the fine line of being a romantic one. The constant flirting mixed with mutual respect makes this a bit more satisfying than the tortured romance between Mary Jane and Peter Parker. They are both supported by an excellent cast. Jeff Bridges seems to have a blast being evil as Obadiah Stane. Terrence Howard could have easily been a stuffy military stereotype as Jim Rhodes, but we briefly get to see him lighten up here and there and make his character more three-dimensional. You have to give credit to Jon Favreau for letting all the supporting cast members have moments to shine. Everyone from the hot reporter in the trailers to a SHIELD agent have memorable scenes. Favreau even manages to give a robotic arm some personality that would make WALL•E jealous.

That's the other key to "Iron Man's" success – the humor. There are frequent laughs in the movie but never so many as to turn it into comedy. And it's not just Downey's one-liners that contribute to this. For example, the opening scenes showing Stark's gleefully decadent playboy lifestyle offer up lots of laughs. How can you not get a kick out of a prim and proper corporate jet that turns into a bachelor's fantasy mid-flight? Or the seemingly constantly available bar that travels with Tony? These little touches really make the movie an enjoyable experience.

Another thing that makes "Iron Man" such a success is the action. The live action suits, beautifully created by Stan Winston Studios, are perfectly merged with the CGI from ILM. With the Mark I armor we're treated to an intense battle in a cave with the terrorists. The practical suit of armor is as clunky, and lethal, as you'd expect. Later we see the Mark II armor in test flight. But it's the Mark III red and gold armor that's most impressive. When it finally goes into battle, the fanboy in you will leap for joy. We see Tony battling gunmen, tanks, jet fighters, and finally Iron Monger. It all leaves you wanting to see much more.

I think the final key factor of success with "Iron Man" is that it will please comic book fans while still being accessible to people who have never read the book. There are so many touches here and there that comic geeks, such as myself, appreciate. There are hints of War Machine, SHIELD, and more. The story remains remarkably faithful to the source material while just tweaking things enough to make it more modern. The origin story is almost identical to the comics but it's set in Afghanistan rather than Vietnam. Obadiah Stane is now an employee of Stark Industries rather than a rival weapons manufacturer, but his character is still very much the same. The list goes on an on. I can't tell you how happy I am to see the old Tony Stark again. I hate the new 'jerk' Iron Man that Marvel has been pushing on us since Civil War. Old school rules.

What Didn't Work:
I have very minor gripes with this movie. I have to really stretch to find anything that didn't work.

I would note that the music (other than "Back in Black" and "Iron Man") did not stand out in the film. There's no recognizable Iron Man theme like there was for Superman or Batman. In fact, there were many points in the film where the music sounded like it came from a TV show rather than a major summer blockbuster. There's room for improvement here in a sequel.

I would also warn people that the trailers and TV commercials spoil many of the best parts of this movie. I watched the SDCC footage, the online clips, the trailers, and commercials. If you've seen all that, there's very little left new for you. But I can't fault the marketing department too much for this. They had to sell a comic book movie to people that had never heard of Iron Man before. If that's what it takes to make this a hit and get a sequel made, I can live with it.

Finally, my 6-year-old has been waiting a year to see this movie, so I took him to it without screening it first like I usually do. (He's such a big fan that he said, "The kids at my school say I can't talk about Iron Man anymore." Yes, he's hard-core.) There were a few scenes where I covered his eyes (Stark romping with the hot reporter) and a bunch of scenes where he covered his eyes on his own (Stark being captured by the terrorists, people being hurt by Stane). In the end he loved it, but parents should pay heed to the PG-13 warning. There's nothing in here worse than what you see on primetime television, but I'd say 8 or 9-year-olds would have no problem with this film.

The Bottom Line:
"Iron Man" is everything you'd hope a comic book movie would be. It's a great start to a new franchise and a fantastic start for Marvel Studios. "Iron Man" is a great way to kick off your summer movie-going experience.

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