Strong cast, script lay foundation for enjoyable 'Iron Man'
May 8, 2008
This decade will be remembered as the phoenix years for the superhero, boasting an impressive 21 comic-character adaptations, 15 of those being produced by comic mogul Marvel. The industry has had its uber-successes (Spiderman, anyone?), but it has also seen its share of crushing defeats (Elektra, Fantastic Four). For the most part, however, Marvel flicks fall somewhere comfortably in the middle, being not too thought provoking but at least an enjoyable action go-around. And that is precisely where “Iron Man,” Marvel’s latest cash-cow-come-home, finds itself.
While making a sales call in the Middle East, playboy billionaire and weapons industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is captured by insurgents who order him to build them a very powerful bomb. Stark, gravely injured, is kept alive by fellow inmate Yinsen (Shaun Toub), a former physicist who develops a special electromagnet chest-plate to keep the shrapnel in Stark’s chest from piercing his heart.
Stark uses the terrorist’s workshop to secretly construct a powerful suit of armor, and escapes the caves, returning to the U.S. Refining his design, this new iron pugilist takes to the world stage in an attempt to curve the illegal buying of weaponry by his former captors.
“Iron Man” will be first and foremost regarded as a crowd-pleasing popcorn action flick and, for the most part, it doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of “whoa!” moments as helpless bad guys are thrown around like rag dolls by the impressively rendered Iron Man.
Director Jon Favreau films his action as shots of pure adrenaline, condensed into shorter, yet more intense, jolts. He is a Baz Luhrmann on steroids, directing his Moulin Rouge of steel and explosions to an entropic crescendo.
Some sequences may be, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately just for show—designed to inspire the inevitable video-game spin off—but who cares? These moments come as welcome shots of excitement. They are easily forgiven in the wake of Downey’s commanding presence, every bit the sex-symbol merchant of Marvel. Downey plays Stark like an alcoholic Bond, aloof with a biting tongue defense.
His supporting cast is not so brilliantly realized, however— star power in pursuit of profits, never profundity. Gwyneth Paltrow turns her hand as Stark’s gorgeous and pining secretary Pepper Potts; reminiscent of Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, Paltrow goes through all the motions but never captures that depth of soul.
The hardest character to swallow, however, is Jeff Bridges, Stark’s shady business partner. Forever typecast as “The Dude”-and acting very un-dude-like here, Bridges is never allowed the opportunity to become his character, detaching viewers with every line of dialogue.
“Iron Man” is tremendous entertainment, a well-crafted action romp that kicks off the summer blockbuster series with a bang. It serves as an impressive exposition for the sequel sure to follow (make sure to stay through the credits, wink wink). It doesn’t quite match the depth or quality of recent DC superhero movies, but that’s fine.
Ken Weigend is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2010.