Avengers Month: ‘Iron Man’ Review

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrance Howard, Clark Gregg

Plot: When playboy billionaire weapons developer Tony Stark is confronted with the reality of his industry he builds a robotic suit of armour that he uses to battle against warmongers in a mission of personal redemption.

Review: After the embarrassingly cartoonish Hulk had been swept under the rug, Sony had turned Spider-Man into something that could’ve been written by a pre-schooler and Fox and stripped the budget of the X-Men franchise down to the director having to use porcupine people the burst of successful superhero movies had been starting to wane. They’d been clunkers already, but with the major franchises slipping under the surface it looks as though the trend was all but done. The Marvel comics took things into their own hands by assembling their own studio and cutting out the middle man between page and screen and with it the committee thinking and marketing departments. What we end up with is a movie that works on the strengths of the source material rather than trying to mold a brand to fit a pre-sold demographic.

Tony Stark is one hell of a character to watch. In an age when superheroes have been ‘darker’ and ‘gritty’ it’s a breath of fresh air seeing a person who enjoys the abilities he has been given. He’s also human, something that can make for a more interesting superhero being someone who chooses their path instead of it being a birthright or happenstance of fate. The transition of Tony Stark from carefree, copy-spouting corporate figurehead to a force for peace feels genuine and the easy charisma Downey exudes at every stage of the process makes him non-stop fun to watch. Downey seems to have been born for the role, effortlessly embodying the character under every circumstance. It’s little wonder his career took a swing from down-and-out to A-List following this role.

Just as interesting as the character arc of Stark is the transitions of the Iron Man armour. A smart move on behalf of the script-writers a fully formed Iron Man suit doesn’t just drop onto the screens. Beginning with a rudimentary slap-dash weapon built out of scraps and ending with the sleek red and golden mech it makes the unfeasible seem possible. The science behind the armour and the arc-reactor chest piece is best described as make-believe, yet the film-makers sell it extremely well. Scenes in which Stark is working on the armour while chatting to his robotic arm are some of the best moments in the film.

Mixing real world politics with robot suits and superheroes may seem distasteful but the message comes through good and strong. The world is in a bad state and people like Stark are needed to make a change. With a dangerous amount of the worlds economy tied up in weapons manufacturing and the people who are set to make a profit of developments in this field the notion of a weapons developer setting out to do the right thing feels like a genuine hero for the era.

"High ten!"

If one thing is missing from the film it’s a strong villain role. Tony Stark’s captors at the beginning of the film become a catalyst for the change in the character, but they wind up being quietly dispatched by Obidiah Stane. Bridges is great as Stane, dripping insincerity and greed from every angle, but doesn’t take up the mantle of villain proper until what is essentially the third act. With Stark providing such entertaining banter throughout the rest of the movie this is a minor quibble, as it is his story. The only other weak link in the chain is Terrance Howard as Rhodes, as he comes across as a middle school student reading their presentation of a set of palm cards.

A fantastic character with the perfect actor behind him, exciting action and a healthy smattering of humour makes for awesome viewing and the perfect launching point for the Avengers franchise. It does, however, lose a star for having Gwyneth Paltrow in it. I hate Gwyneth Paltrow. Why did you turn down the role Rachel McAdams?

Score: EIGHT outta TEN