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Iron Man Movie Review


The new man of steel takes flight.

Iron Man is the newest in an already long line of Marvel superheroes given the big screen treatment and, surprisingly, does the comic justice while also bringing in clueless newcomers without alienating them. A lot of this accessibility is brought forth by the man starring as billionaire playboy Tony Stark – the suave, sarcastic, and slightly neurotic Robert Downey Jr. If you had told me five years ago that Downey Jr. would one day play a very convincing and likeable superhero, I would have laughed in your face. However, the man does just that in Iron Man, playing Tony Stark with a real human glow that makes his dramatic character transition from a womanizing and boozing power player to a self-sacrificing idealist believable and understandable.

One of my few complaints with the film is brought to light within the first five minutes of the film. While I do appreciate a bit of current events and realism in my incredibly science-fictiony flavored movies, it was almost enough to make me squirm when a U.S. Army convoy is ambushed on a dusty desert road in the Middle East. I have friends who have actively served in Iraq and though they have all returned safe I couldn't help but feel awful imagining someone in the theater whose friend never came home watching a scene in which an entire armored division of U.S. soldiers is gunned down by textbook terrorists in turbans.

Again, it is a minor complaint but one I feel is worth mentioning if such a scene might upset you. It sets off the plot of the movie at a breakneck pace, however, leaving Tony Stark suddenly held captive in a cave by terrorists who have armed themselves with the weapons his own company, Stark Industries, has manufactured. Then, inexplicably, the movie flashes back three days for an unnecessarily long exposition on how Tony ended up in this situation. I hate to say “there's too much plot in this movie,” but I don't know how else to say it. I understand completely the need for an even pace and character development but I felt they spent entirely too much screen time showing how rich and cool Tony Stark was instead of getting to the meat of the story. It felt like a grueling forty-five minutes before we finally get to see Tony Stark in a prototype battle suit blasting his way to freedom.

Once Tony escapes back to America, he decides to change his ways and dedicates himself to building an incredibly sophisticated battle suit that can fly and shoot missiles and basically act as a one-man army. From the moment he conceives the idea, the movie is pure fan service. Comic book fans will love seeing the birth of the Iron Man suit. They do a good job of showing it from early prototype tests (complete with hilarious mistakes and miscalculations) to the final test flight of the fully operational suit. Kids will love the slapstick and the cutesy robot helpers that litter Tony Stark's work area. Adults will love the mind-blowing special effects and almost endless womanizing and double-entendres. It truly struck me how much this movie had to offer to almost any demographic. Just about any person could walk in off the street to see this movie and be entertained.

The casting is excellent as well, replete with big names that fit their roles well. Terrence Howard gives an appropriate performance as a high-ranking military officer and close friend of Tony Stark. When the two interact it really seems like they have a friendly rapport but Howard's character seems to fall flat when in a scene by himself. Jeff Bridges is surprisingly devious as Tony's right-hand man with bigger plans for Stark Industries. My only complaint is that they didn't let Jeff Bridges' nuanced and dark performance carry itself. They felt it necessary to absolutely cram the fact that he is a villain down your throat – complete with scary music, dark shadows, menacing glares that go on for too long and paper-thin threats. They might as well have just put a giant flashing neon sign over his head that says BAD GUY! One of my favorite performances was Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, the assistant and love interest in the film. She sinks into the role aptly, appearing human and full of respect and desire but never dripping with melodrama or bubbling over with Disney-esque romanticism.

Basically, this is a movie that attempts and for the most part succeeds to cover every conceivable base. It has a love story, incredible action sequences, suspense, intrigue, slapstick comedy, and even tongue-in-cheek political commentary. I believe it ushers in a new type of superhero movie that isn't saturated with obscure and alienating comic references and can be enjoyed by the hardcore fans just as much as the folks just looking for a fun movie. Unless you completely despise superhero movies there really is no reason to miss Iron Man.

--Matt Makepeace

8.5 / 10

Iron Man (Film)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrance Howard, Jeff Bridges

Rated PG-13

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