Iron Man

by | Sep 30th, 2008 | 8:00AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews


Show business is like any other business. Car makers were, for a while, selling America SUVs because they were not only what people wanted but they were also immensely profitable. Change ‘car makers’ for ‘movie studios’ and ‘SUVs’ for ‘super-hero action films’ and that sentence is as accurate for Hollywood as it is for Detroit. And, just as some SUVs are well-made and some aren’t, so it is for super-hero action films. Iron Man, directed by John Favreau, is actually exceptionally well-made, bringing a Marvel Comics hero created in the ’60s to the 21st-century big-screen with Robert Downey Jr. starring as multi-millionaire arms mogul Tony Stark, who builds a high-tech suit of powered armor that makes him a one-man army. And yeah, the movie is shiny and gleaming and high-tech, just like the suit of armor; just like the suit of armor, though, it’s what’s inside that really counts.

And for both the movie and the suit, what’s inside is Robert Downey Jr. A few years ago, when Downey was the poster boy for Hollywood excess, it was hard to imagine him working after some of his more notable mis-steps, never mind playing the lead in a mega-million special-effects action film. "I’m just not the hero type, clearly, with this laundry list of character defects, mistakes I’ve made — largely public. …" That line, late in Iron Man, is Tony Stark talking about himself, but it might as well be Downey saying it. But Downey’s casting as Tony Stark in Iron Man isn’t just unexpected; it’s also perfect. Just as Bruce Wayne’s costumed activities as Batman are driven by the death of his parents, Tony Stark’s suiting up as Iron Man is driven by the realization that his company’s weapons are being sold to terrorists and evildoers. Tony Stark has made a few bad choices, as has Downey; like Downey had to after the tabloid press was done with him, Tony Stark is going to make a public apology. Unlike Downey, Tony Stark is going to do it flying around, lifting cars and shooting energy beams. ….

The special effects in Iron Man are impressive; it was the last film that effects titan Stan Winston worked on before his death, leading a team of experts who combine models, miniatures and computer effects to bring the Iron Man armor to gleaming life. The twinkle in Downey’s eye, though, as he moves through the film — charming and cool and clever — is far more shiny and polished than his super-suit. If Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean was highly influenced by Keith Richards, Downey’s Tony Stark feels like a blend of James Bond and Dean Martin, managing to be both iconic and ironic. The script and supporting cast in Iron Man are strong, sure; actually, Iron Man‘s four lead actors — Downey, Jeff Bridges, Gwynneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard — have seven Oscar nominations between them. It pains me to say it, though, but watching Iron Man on DVD, it’s fairly obvious that if you didn’t have Downey, you wouldn’t have much of a movie, even with all the effects and capable supporting cast and the obvious skill Favreau brings to the table as a director.

Iron Man does have Downey, though, and we’re lucky for it. The fact is that Downey makes what could have been an off-the-rack big-budget action film into something actually worth watching. The bare-bones truth is that Iron Man does everything you’d expect a superhero origin story film to do, and not much more: You meet the hero-to-be, watch him come into his own, see him try out his new abilities, see him become a better person through trials and tribulations, all building up to a climactic battle with a more-powerful enemy. The deleted scenes on the DVD actually suggest a longer, darker, richer movie that might not have worked as well on-screen; the version that made it to theaters is streamlined and sleek and speedy, and still satisfying. Iron Man, at heart, is a movie about, and for, men who are still boyish enough to love high-tech toys, but the good news is that Downey gives the film real heart under its shiny, high-tech exterior.

6 Responses to “Iron Man

  1. teddy
    Posted on October 1, 2008 at 10:33 am

    didn’t like the very end.

  2. Rock
    Posted on October 3, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Anyone catch the innuendo scene after the credits? (If you have the DVD check it and see).Fast forward past the credits-its there. There is an appearence from non other than Samuel Jackson (I told you hes in every movie!) which pretty much leads into what the next film will be on. Alot of the Marvel Based Comic Movies- put these innuendos in the credits or after. Another that comes to mind :
    Daredevil- Fast forward past the credits- shows, Bullseye in a bed all bandaged up- kinda a funny sequence.
    X-men 3 theres another- again watch past the credits
    Fantastic 4- Rise Of the Silver Surfer is another- you get a peek of the Silver Surfer in space .
    Theres prob alot more than this- but I cant recall them all- try it and see for yourself!

  3. E
    Posted on October 3, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I was a bit surprised at just how much I enjoyed this film. RDJ was outstanding in this role, and — for me — made up for Paltrow’s sort of bored and boring performance.
    I’m looking forward to catching the cut scenes on the DVD.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted on July 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Disgusting what people will do to innocent robots these days. The recent Robo- One bipedal robot competition in Japan played host to a round of robot- fighting. The geeks over at Crave gush, ” In it, a Hawaiian- shirt- clad chicken robot lays the smackdown on a more traditional robot. Enjoy. It’s hard not to. Nothing of this ilk would happen during lunchtime of our ongoing battle of the nonviolent robots. ” Perhaps Vick should’ve taken the robot- fighting route. At least then, the robot could’ve fought back…

  5. Locke Peterseim
    Posted on July 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Awesome. Instant winner of Craziest Damn redblog Comment of the Week!

  6. Ray Watson
    Posted on October 22, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Two thumbs up.