FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Iron Man (2008)
MAN OF IRON!
I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film launched the biggest superhero franchise of all time, Iron Man…
Having survived a kidnapping using his remarkable intelligence and ingenuity to build a high-tech armoured suit, unscrupulous billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides to use his skills and mega organisation Stark Industries for good.
But when he uncovers a plot with disastrous global ramifications, he upgrades his armour and is determined to protect the world under the guise of Iron Man.
What is perhaps most notable and commendable about Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is that it achieves what some previous superhero movies have strived for with nowhere near as much success. Blending heavy contemporary real-world themes into the realm of a science fiction fantasy film is difficult because the very essence of the Tony Stark character, his heroic alter ego, and the world he inhibits, only work if the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief. Iron Man asks us to suspend a lot, which is a mighty task when considering that all-too-familiar instances of terrorism and warfare are vital in setting up the plot.
But how does Iron Man get this balance so right? Well, the on screen world is easily recognisable as our own and, although the level of technological advancements may not be, we accept it because what we learn of Stark through a video played at an awards ceremony and the manner in which he conducts himself from the get-go makes sense. These come together harmoniously because Robert Downey Jr. plays the complex Tony Stark straight with touches of dry humour that keep him accessible. Both eccentric and distant, the audience has to put the work into gauging Stark, who shows flashes of strength and vulnerability. By the end of the film, we know more about him but realise there’s plenty left to discover, as suggested in his final press conference.
As perfectly cast as Downey is as the titular hero, Iron Man is not without its flaws. It has plenty to introduce, and takes its time in doing so, but the payoff doesn’t quite feel as satisfying as it should for a movie of this scale. As is the case with many superhero films, the leading lady and love interest isn’t given much to do besides advance the hero’s narrative. But Gwyneth Paltrow is nonetheless a joy to watch as Pepper Potts and there is a lovely genuineness about her chemistry with Downey. Despite this, their relationship isn’t always quite as believable as it should be, so the climactic battle that reduces Potts to lamenting over Stark’s mortality misses the emotional beats it strives for and comes across as melodramatic.
The script plants an excessive number of seeds for future films but you won’t feel as though you are missing anything if you were to stop right here. Although inevitably suffering from the responsibility of setting up a franchise with a character making his big screen debut, there’s still plenty to enjoy about Iron Man. 3½ / 5
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Gwyneth Paltrow, Faran Tahir, Paul Bettany [voice], Leslie Bibb, Clark Gregg, Will Lyman [voice], Jon Favreau, Samuel L. Jackson, Stan Lee, Tom Morello, Jim Cramer.
Director: Jon Favreau | Writers: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway (based on Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby) | Producers: Avi Arad, Kevin Feige | Music: Ramin Djawadi | Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique | Editor: Dan Lebental
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