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Review

Strong cast, script lay foundation for enjoyable ‘Iron Man’

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May 8, 2008

Just as Iron Man the character is of a different school than super-powered characters like Spider-Man or the X-Men, “Iron Man” the film is the same as far as comic-to-screen adaptations go. Those expecting a slam-bang, explosion-a-minute blockbuster out of this flick will be sorely disappointed. “Iron Man’s” duties lie with being a character-driven yarn with particularly explosive set pieces, rather than using constant pyrotechnics to woo the ADD-afflicted masses.

  But as much of a downer as it sounds, such care given to the script and story only serve to strengthen “Iron Man,” putting it in the same league as films like “Batman Begins,” which capture the soul of superheroes instead of just recanting their adventures.

  Robert Downey Jr. top lines as Tony Stark, gazillionaire playboy and all-around technological dynamo. While in the Middle East to demonstrate his company’s latest military weaponry, Stark becomes the victim of his own merchandise after his convoy is attacked by a terrorist cell. Initially forced to build the group their very own missile, Stark revolts, whipping up a suit of armor with which he escapes his captors. 

  He emerges from the experience a changed man, announcing upon his return to American soil that he intends to shut down production on all weapons of mass destruction. In the meantime, Stark concentrates on perfecting the suit that saved his life, tweaking and modifying it until he’s ready to take on evil across the globe as the metallic defender of justice, Iron Man.

  At heart, “Iron Man” is the story of a flawed genius who comes to see the error of his ways, who puts his vast intellect towards helping people instead of being the source of their destruction. Of course, Stark isn’t a complete Boy Scout once he dons Iron Man’s iconic red and gold suit, but the journey he goes through leaves him a little wiser, a convincing character arc that Favreau pulls off brilliantly.

  But “Iron Man” couldn’t have come together as well as it did without Downey’s dead-on performance as Stark, a career-defining turn that does a great job of bringing out the man behind the mask. Even if you shift “Iron Man’s” more dramatic and character-based aspects to the side, it still emerges as a pretty damn fun popcorn flick. It doesn’t have a great number of action sequences, but those it does include are tons of fun, especially a scene in which Stark defends a Middle Eastern village for the first time as Iron Man.

  After licensing their characters for a few years, Marvel Comics has made “Iron Man” the first film in which their people are in creative control of the production. As it turns out, this choice was a wise one, for as easily as Tony Stark could’ve ended up as some jerk running around in a titanium suit, the filmmakers excel at proving how, as the movie’s tagline states, heroes aren’t born—they’re made.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.