Iron Man (2008)
Director: Jon Favreau Starring: Robert Downey Jr.,Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Toub
Certificate: 12 Running Time: 121 Minutes
Tagline: “This Summer: Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Built”
They’re gradually working their way down the popularity list of super-heroes, aren’t they? Whilst hardly an unknown, I doubt as many people know who Tony Stark is as Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne! That may have helped this film when it was first released though – I don’t think there was huge expectation, even from the fanboys. That combined with the fact that this is Marvel’s first self-financed feature made this quite a gamble. But did it pay off?
As with most films of this type, this is an ‘origins’ story. It has obviously been updated to make it easier to relate to, but the basics are the same as they were way back in the 60’s. It tells the story of how millionaire playboy and genius engineer, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), suffers a fatal heart wound on a visit to Afghanistan, during an attack by kidnappers who want him to construct super-weapons for them. In the case of this film, the antagonists in question are, predictably enough, Middle-Eastern terrorists. Instead of building the ‘Jericho’ missile as ordered, however, he constructs, not only a device to keep himself alive, but also a powerful suit of armour which he uses to blast his way to freedom.
The story is pretty well-known, and somewhat predictable even to those who don’t read comic-books, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the entertainment factor. In the wrong hands, this could be a fairly mundane movie, but luckily, with masterful helm-control from actor-turned-director, Favreau (Swingers), and top-notch casting, it’s anything but mundane. Whoever it was that decided to cast Robert Downey Jr as Stark was almost as much of a genuis as Stark himself! They were perhaps more of a gambler than Marvel too, given his somewhat ‘colourful’ past, but it was, however, a masterstroke – he’s a revelation, and elevates this film all by himself. It’s almost as if the role was made for him. His (apparently) natural charisma and charm are perfect for the role, and suit the confident, outgoing, extroverted,
Stark to a tee, as does the decor of his updated, futuristic Malibu mansion – his workshop is full of super-advanced technology and watching him interact with it all is really enjoyable, especially his banter with his computer and robotic helpers!As you might imagine, after three months in captivity, in a cave, in fear of his life, Tony’s ordeal changes him. When he finally gets back home, he declares that the company he inherited from his father, Stark Industries, a major weapons manufacturer and military contractor, will no longer create death-dealing devices. Naturally, his father’s old partner, Obadiah Stane (Bridges), who effectively runs the company, is strongly opposed to this. Instead, Stark devotes his time to building an improved version of his suit while Stane plots to wrest control of the company from him, inevitably resulting in a confrontation between the two.
Other casting is also of a high standard too. Stark’s loyal assistant, Pepper Potts, is nicely played by Paltrow, Jeff Bridges is almost unrecognisable as the imposing Obadiah Stane, and Terrence Howard is stern, but likeable as his friend and military liaison, Rhodey. Overall, it’s pretty much as good as it could’ve been. Does it best the first Spider Man? Possibly not (it’s close though), but Iron Man is a bit more of an unknown quantity. There’s something for everyone here – political and biblical references for those looking for a bit of depth, action and witty dialogue for those wanting to sit back with some popcorn and turn off their brain on a friday night. This has to rank among the best comic-book adaptions to date and you’ll almost certainly enjoy every minute. Oh, and don’t turn it off when the credits start rolling! 😉
RKS Score: 8/10