- Movie Rating -

Iron Man (2008)

| May 3, 2008 | 0 Comments

Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” brings the superhero genre to a rock star status.  Frankly, it needs it.  It is a breath of fresh air after the Superman and Batman pictures which have been so vapid and overproduced that they forgot to be fun.  This movie overcomes all the handicaps that have kept the others down including the labored weight of the origin story.  Yes, Tony Stark builds and Iron Man suit and becomes a superhero, but the script isn’t belabored by getting all the pieces in place.  This is a fun movie that allows it’s hero to learn from his mistakes.

What makes “Iron Man” work is that Favreau and his writers realize that a man in an iron suit can only be interesting as far as the special effects can carry it.  So, their movie is heavily weighted toward the performance of Robert Downey Jr. who, as Tony Stark, is given free range over his best gift, his mouth.  Stark is old money, a billionaire whose company builds on the legacy of his late father, building weapons to – quote – keep the peace – end quote.  As the movie opens, he’s in a convoy in Afghanistan, drink in hand, headed to a presentation of his new weapon system.  You don’t have to have superpowers to guess that his convoy is ambushed by members of a terrorist cell who want the famed metallurgist to build them a missile.  What does he build instead?  Well, just look at the title.

What a guy this is.  He has enough many to keep a small country in luxury for decades.  He can build anything with a hammer and welding torch.  He lives on a vast mountaintop estate in Malibu, California.  He has jets, cars, and even a robot butler named J.A.R.V.I.S. whose voice sounds suspiciously like Paul Bettaney.  He’s also got a Barnum-like gift for salesmanship, selling arms around the world to keep things in line.  This is caused him grief.  He’s been called a Merchant of Death, a man whose company deals in making war profits.  He argues vehemently that his company helps keep the world at peace by fighting back against those who bring about war.  That builds the bulk of the movie as Stark builds the Iron Man suit, his company.

After an incident in Afghanistan, he decides to shut down the weapons division and focus on building his iron suit.  That doesn’t sit well with his second-in-command Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), and therein lies our villain.  Bridges makes a good one.  He’s familiar to us as a nice guy, but here he proves that he can convincingly play a villain.  It’s not just a standard evil villain.  There’s something about Stane that gives he fuel to want what Stark has.  It’s a good performance.

Also good is Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Starks’s personal assistant and love interest.  She could have been stuck in a thankless role, but Paltrow has been given something much more substantial to work with.  She isn’t all lips and glossy eyes.  She has a brain and she tires of her employer’s wreckless personality, that is, until she falls into his arms.  The chemistry between Paltrow and Downey is something special.

Yet, the greatest gift here is Robert Downey Jr. who’s on the comeback trail.  He’s a wonderful actor who fell into a personal crisis but now seems to be on the road back.  Recently, he’s been turning in magnificent work in “A Scanner Darkly”, “Zodiac”, “Tropic Thunder” and the little-seen “Lucky You.”  He has a God-given talent and it’s nice to finally see him getting back to great work.  He gives a better performance here might seem necessary.  He could have done a lot of posturing, but he gives Stark a personality that is light-hearted.  It’s a joy to watch.

So is the movie.  Jon Favreau has created a film that is exciting and fun.  The script gives us more than we might expect, and it isn’t all rock-em-sock-em crash and bash (though the movie employs those things).   It isn’t overwhelmed by marketing.  This is a smart movie, with a lot of energy and style.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.