Just when people are starting to feel apathetic about "another superhero movie," Marvel claims that Iron Man will be the start of a new generation of superhero movies. I knew basically nothing about this particular character, but after seeing the exciting trailer and the cast involved, I decided to give it a go. Hey, the summer blockbuster season has to start somewhere, right? And I can gladly say that this movie is well worth the $11.
Just like every first instalment of a franchise, Iron Man deals with the origin of the title character. In an award ceremony at the beginning of the movie, we learn that Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a scientific genius, a wealthy industrialist who has inherited the weaponry empire from his father, and a playboy. He interprets the motto "Live life to its fullest" as drinking, partying, picking up girls, and forgetting about them the next morning. But when he is abducted by a group of terrorists that forces him to make his latest model of missile, he comes to the realization that his company has been supplying the world with killing machines while he gets filthy rich. So what’s the solution? Build an armoured suit that can shoot mini rockets, repulsor rays, and flares and can make him fly, so that he can kick some bad guys’ butts, of course. Oh, and he paints it gold and hot rod red just to make it looks cooler!
No one would expect the plot of a comic book movie to be complicated. And Iron Man isn’t trying to exceed that expectation at all. Even with Stark’s evil business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) in the mix, the storyline is simple enough. However, the writers do deserve credits for clever dialogues and scene set-ups that show the characters’ personalities and make them so fun to watch. Yes, FUN is the keyword here. The actors don’t take themselves too seriously and seem to genuinel enjoy making the movie. While having two Academy Award winners is not so important in a film like this, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Stark’s loyal secretary and love interest, Pepper Potts, should be applauded for their fine delivery of the zingers that fill the film with memorable moments. Even Bridges’s evil Stane seems to be there to provide entertainment instead of spreading terror. Whether Stane gets frustrated with Stark standing in his way or finally becomes the Iron Monger and fights it out with Iron Man, we get a sense that Bridge is having fun playing this character. It’s this we’re-just-here-to-have-fun-not-trying-too-hard-to-impress kind of air that makes Iron Man very entertaining and leaves the audience wanting more. Also worth mentioning is Stark’s military pal, Colonel James Rhodes (Terrence Howard), who tries to keep him in check but always has to clean up Tony’s mess in the end. But don’t feel sorry for him, the movie also drops a hint that James will get an armoured suit of his own.
While doing some research to find out more about this superhero, I discovered that Iron Man was created to rival Batman from DC comics. Then the resemblance became obvious. None of them possesses any superhuman strength, but money and technology are their powers. Iron Man plays this to its advantage, allowing Tony Stark’s robot assistants and computer intelligence butler to provide some of the biggest comic relief in the movie.
Robert Downey, Jr. may not be the first actor that comes to mind when casting for a superhero, but it’s a rather clever move. It’s not hard to realize that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man is a parallel representation of Downey, Jr.’s personal life. Both struggle with an addiction (to alcohol/drugs) and then tries clean up their lives. He is no doubt a brilliant actor. Seeing a person overcoming his demons and start a new life is pretty inspiring. This is why I always like Marvel’s characters better. They have flaws that reserve their humanity. It’s how they fights their personal battles as well as the bad guys that make them truly super.
If I need to pick out some weak points of Iron Man, it’s the sensitive issue of the Middle East terrorists. Once again, they’re portrayed as the evil and backward ones that need to be eliminated or rescued by the mighty U.S. of A.. At least they show that the crafty Stane is really the evil mind who only thinks of himself and keeps no true friends or foes. Although we can see the writers’ efforts to make Paltrow’s Pepper Potts (try saying that 10 times) more useful, she is sadly just another pretty dumb blond in a male-driven action movie. I’ve read that Paltrow has decided to lighten up and take this role, the kind she had been staying away from purposely. I guess her relaxing approach shows up on screen and results in great chemistry between the emotional secretary in high heels and the fun-seeking billionaire. However, after the dreadful failure of Catwoman, Elektra and the disappointment called Rogue in the X-Men trilogy, I really hope a good movie featuring a female superhero can finally be made.
When all is said and done, Iron Man is what every summer movie goer asks for — action, comedy and cool special effects all rolled into one. While my sister couldn’t retain her excitement after seeing the film, I was bothered by a strange unsettling feeling. Then I realized, I was having so much fun that the 126 minutes were not enough! I’m sure Marvel will start working on a sequel soon to satisfy the fans of the latest comic book superhero leaping onto the big screen.
- All photos © 2008 Paramount Pictures
- I went to see this movie on the opening weekend, but as huge procrastinator, I’m writing the review now. It’s grossed over $223 million up until last weekend and will probably be adding a lot more. But if you have not seen this movie, please remember to stay for an extra scene featuring a big star after the credits.