Iron Man (2008)

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Published on: 2008.05.05

I’m not a professional film critic. And I’m not a professional comic book fan.

So I loved this movie.

Like many recent films based on comic books, Iron Man got hosed by fans of the mis-named “graphic novel” (actually, “comic book”). But that always happens.

For the average movie fan, Iron Man is chock full of action, glossy special effects, and cool science-fiction type ideas, though I took a couple of points off my total rating because of the total lack of surprises.

Robert Downey Jr. portrays Tony Stark, the quirky genius CEO of a weapons-manufacturing corporation. An ultra-billionaire, Stark likes the ladies, and spares no expense for his own pleasure — for instance, his beach house in Malibu is outstanding.

But he’s also a hard worker and a visionary.

These very personality traits led some reviewers to say the character was confusing, and that the pieces didn’t match. (Keep in mind, these are the same reviewers who usually deride characters as “one-dimensional.”) The critics acted like they’d never met a person who had more than one personality trait.

Jeff Bridges plays Stark’s business partner Obadiah Stane, who (predictably) is dealing arms illegally behind Stark’s back. Bridges is brilliant as the maniacal bad guy, but something about him just wasn’t scary enough for me.

The cast is filled out by Terrence Howard (as Stark’s best friend Jim Rhodes) and Gwyneth Paltrow (as Stark’s nerdish and loyal secretary Pepper Potts).

Basically, Stark takes a trip to Afghanistan to sell a new weapons system, but ends up captured and ordered to make a missile for a group of men who appear to be terrorists or insurgents of some kinds. Instead, he builds a mechanized suit of weapon-laded armor, and blasts his way out. Then it’s revealed that the suit flies too.

Back in America, Stark decides his company won’t build weapons anymore, and he secludes himself to perfect his body armor (which turns out to be the most effective weapon he’s ever made).

Stane learns of his plans and builds a suit of his own, leading to the (predictable) showdown near the end of the movie, during which Potts is (predictably) in danger for having helped Starks.

Perhaps the only surprise of the movie is when Starks says, “I am Iron Man,” giving away his secret identity during a press conference, in answer to a headline’s question, “Who Is Iron Man?”

The movie follows the comic book superhero formula, and it works.

One difference between Iron Man and other superheroes, a difference that I liked, is that Iron Man doesn’t become a superhero because of something crazy like being bitten by a radioactive spider. He’s not from another planet, like Super Man. Starks uses his own know-how and hard work to create his ability, which I find a refreshing message.

His superhero-ness wasn’t thrust upon him — he took it upon himself.

Another surprise is that the critics actually liked it. Reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and others lauded the movie. I was so accustomed to these folks hating on this type of movie, that it was shock to see that many of them liked it.

IMDb: Iron Man
Wikipedia: Iron Man
Rating: PG-13
(intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content)
Length: 126 min. (2:16)
Director: Jon Favreau
Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama / Sci-Fi
My Rating: 8 of 10
Family Friendly: Some of the action could be scary for children, though the death and blood is played down quite a bit. Objectionable language is kept to a minimum, and there’s no nudity.
Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Sayed Badreya

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