by Jon Favreau (dir)
Review by Drew Bittner
Marvel / Paramount Media
Date: 02 May 2008
Based on "Iron Man," the monthly superhero comic (NOT graphic novel!) from Marvel Comics, the story picks up with Tony Stark (Downey) in trouble. This billionaire playboy, heir to a weapons manufacturing corporate empire, is terminally irresponsible and clueless; he blows off his duties and misses appointments, breezily asserting his right to be a jerk whenever and however he pleases.All of that changes in Afghanistan. Following a successful test of his new Jericho missile, Stark's caravan is ambushed; he is gravely injured and taken hostage. His injuries are so severe, he requires an electromagnetic implant to survive. His captors, belonging to the Order of the Ten Rings and led by the nefarious Raza (Faran Tahir), insist that he build them a superweapon; he knows that doing so will sign his own death warrant.
With the help of Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub), Stark builds a better device ... and a means of escape.
Once home, he reassesses his life and comes to some painful realizations. He chooses to employ his technology more selectively -- and constructs an armored suit to rectify some lapses. This task becomes all the more urgent when he realizes that Stark Industries is dealing weapons to both sides of the War on Terror ... and he's the only one who can stop it.
Along the way, he is supported by the beautiful and somewhat-in-love Pepper Potts (Paltrow), the stalwart Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Howard), and chauffeur/bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau in a largely nonspeaking role). Stark must also reconcile a complex relationship with his mentor/partner, Obadiah Stane (Bridges), and decide who he really is: playboy ... or protector?
But even his technology may not be enough to save him when business turns deadly personal.
Jon Favreau and his crew have scored a knockout with Iron Man, the first feature from Marvel Studios. The comic book publisher is financing this film and June's Incredible Hulk, ensuring their control over their own characters -- a canny move that's paid off in spades. This has translated into Favreau crafting a masterpiece, one that's raised the bar for superhero movies.
The casting of Downey is nothing less than inspired. As Stark, he is in the movie nearly start to finish, and he becomes Tony Stark in every way. It would not surprise me in the least to see him nominated for an Oscar for this performance.
One star, however magnificent, does not a stellar movie make. Downey is more than ably supported by: Paltrow, who carries off Pepper as a thoroughly modern woman who has a soft spot for her boss; Howard, who makes Rhodey much more than a two-dimensional soldier -- you can believe Rhodey and Stark would be lifelong friends; Bridges, whose Stane embodies the best and worst of American corporate culture; and Toub, who as Yinsen invests the film with great heart (in more ways than one).
The film's effects are amazing, with Stark building multiple suits of armor (and using them up), including some terrific fight sequences (both as Iron Man and beforehand), building to a climactic battle against an example of Stark technology gone very, very wrong.
Readers who like action/adventure movies, especially superhero movies, don't need encouragement to see Iron Man. But those who want to see an intelligent, brilliantly acted and expertly told story on the big screen should definitely check this out. Right now.