Theatrical Review: Iron Man

Billionaire munitions manufacturer Tony Stark is living the good life, enjoying a bit of a hedonistic lifestyle from profiteering from his weapons sales. He has his justifications for it and he’s proud of it, and then one day it all goes to hell. After demonstrating his newest weapon, a landscape altering super-missile called The Jericho in the Mid-East, Stark is ambushed by a terrorist group called The Ten Rings, and taken captive where he is forced, along with another scientist named Yensin, to re-create the Jericho for his captors. Stark has different plans though, and instead makes for himself an incredible suit of armor that he eventually uses to take out this cell of The Ten Rings and free himself. Once he’s made it back home, Stark has experienced enough of a life change to want to bring his weapons-manufacturing to a close, and yet still secretly perfecting the armor that he created, now wanting to take on the role of protector. This all to the disdain of Tony’s partner in Stark Enterprises, Obadiah Stane, who has his own sinister agenda.

Jon Favreau’s adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Iron Man is without a doubt, one of the most anticipated movies of the year. It’s been no secret how Favreau has immersed himself in the material and made himself accessible to fans, earnestly wanting to make the best possible movie that he can, and I think for the most part, he’s succeeded wildly. Iron Man being the first Marvel Comics property controlled by Marvel Entertainment, is a pretty entertaining film with a lot of promise of what’s to come from future Marvel properties handled by Marvel Entertainment.

Favreau’s immersion in the material has some great pay-offs to fans of the character (and I am definitely a fan of the character, Iron Man was always one of my favorites as a kid, with the version by David Michelinie and Bob Layton being in my mind the definitive version of the character) and nods to just about all of the major versions of the character, from the Stan Lee origin, to the Michelinie/Layton run and even up to the version presented by Marvel’s Ultimate line, there’s a little something of everything here, and yet it’s all accessible to those who know nothing of the character as well.

Favreau’s film is stylish yet not overbearing, and with the exception of three scenes that are there for more lowest common denominator laughs, it all works really well- fortunately those scenes don’t really cause any reverse sympathy towards the character, and so much of the rest of the film is spot-on that they’re pretty forgivable.

Favreau’s best move is in his casting, and here he’s picked actor Robert Downey Jr. to portray Tony Stark, and really that’s inspired casting. Downey’s own personal problems actually play into things that affect Stark in Iron Man comics continuity, and Downey has literally thrown himself into this. Personally speaking, I think it’s one of his best parts yet. Favreau’s got a good supporting cast here as well, with Gwyneth Paltrow playing Stark’s personal assistant, Pepper Potts, and Terence Howard playing his best friend, James Rhodes, both are solid here and in particular, Paltrow does a great job. Favreau’s even put himself in the movie as Happy Hogan, one of Stark’s bodyguards- and though Hogan had a bigger part in the comics continuity, Favreau chooses not to dwell on him too much here. The final bit of main casting goes to Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, and again, it really looks like you have another actor here who’s just eating up the part he’s in and just adding to Bridges’ own incredible diversity to what he’s done on-screen (there’s one point where I’m watching this, just enjoying Bridges’ performance and remembering this guy played The Dude in the Coen Brother’s The Big Lebowski, just thinking of the extremes that Bridges has covered in his career).

The visual effects are, of course, another big star of the film and they’re really nicely done. I particularly enjoy watching the character take flight. There’s one scene where Stark is being “suited up” so to speak by all sorts of robots attaching the armor onto him, and it made me think back to back in the day in the comics when the character used to carry the armor with him in a brief case, where he could just suit up like he was putting on another set of clothes. It’s sorta ironic in a way, because the method used in the movie certainly looks cool, but considering the technology in the Marvel Universe, the old way would actually be far more advanced, and that of course could even be extrapolated now to a point where the character, technically speaking, now wouldn’t even need a suit of armor any more to function, but I digress… that’s certainly a discussion for another time…

Still though, Iron Man is a whole lot of big-ass fun, and there’s weight here to both it’s main character and his ideas beyond just the action of the film. Highly, highly recommended… and whatever you do, stay past the end credits for one last scene, that certainly is worth seeing.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

05. May 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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