For the first time in a long time a superhero movie has been released which more than meets expectations.
Said film is Iron Man, a Marvel Comics character who – although not as popular as Spider Man or the X-Men – has been around for decades as one the pillars of the Marvel Universe.
In a perfect piece of stunt casting, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, an incredibly wealthy military arms manufacturer who is kidnapped by terrorists whilst demonstrating his deadly new product in Afghanistan. Suffering from a life threatening injury during the siege, Stark is kept alive – thanks to a device of his making which stops shrapnel from penetrating his heart – and uses his ultra technical smarts to build an invincible suit of iron which he uses to escape from his captors, becoming the ultimate protector of the innocent: Iron Man.
Origin stories can be a bore mainly due to the fact that many directors fail to keep the audiences attention between (often sparse) moments of action. Yet Iron Man is a completely different superhero movie thanks to director Jon Favreau’s deft hand at creating a film which not only delights visually, but also engrosses with a very well adapted, character driven story of a redemptive figure who becomes the ultimate global hero, while also providing thought provoking commentary and damnation of the military industrial complex and war profiteers.
The casting of credible character actors in pivotal roles works a treat. Robert Downey Jr. uses his sharp wit and charm to create a highly memorable characterization of one of Marvel Comic’s more complicated figures, and whilst doing so positions himself as Hollywood’s new golden boy who has the talent to back up the drawing power, much like Johnny Depp before him.
An almost unrecognisable Jeff Bridges serves the role of the villainous Obadiah Stane very well, and Terrence Howard does his best in limited screen time, which is sure to be different in future sequels (as if they wouldn’t!), since his character of Jim Rhodes dons an iron suit of his own and becomes War Machine. However, the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is a glaring fault, for try as she might Paltrow lets off a regal vibe which goes against the films fun tone. She may be a great actress, but does not have the versatility or charisma to tackle such a light weight role, which would have been better suited for another actress.
The various armour designs created by the magnificent Stan Winstone, along with the visual effects provided by George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic, are handled nicely by Favreau who desired a much more realistic and not too CGI heavy approach to his effects, which he has accomplished.
Several sequences demonstrate how well these effects look on screen: Stark’s often humorous experiments on his iron suit which feature Downey Jr. in all of his witty glory; a dogfight between Iron Man and two American fighter jets; and a spectacular but all to brief battle between Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Bridges’ Iron Monger.
As the first film from the newly developed Marvel Studios, Iron Man is a well crafted comic adaptation that raises the bar in what was becoming a failing sub-genre.
Note: Stick till the end credits for an extra juicy scene which will make the fanboys go crazy.