Release Date: 2 May 2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: John August, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Arthur Marcum, Matthew Hollaway
Creators: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges
Based on the popular metal-clad Marvel character, Iron Man follows the story of Tony Stark, the hyper-intelligent scion of an enormously wealthy weapon manufacturing family and the heir to the multi-billion dollar company that his father built. Irresponsible, rash, amoral and something of a womaniser, his life is turned upside down when he’s captured by the not-Al-Qaeda forces of terrorist supremo Raza, who wants Stark to build him a devastating weapons system that will enable him to wage war on a catastrophic scale. Needless to say, Stark has other ideas and ends up making himself into a walking tank that decimates the prison. His return to the USA sees him vow to take on people who would cause massive suffering to others, and perfect his design of a suit that will turn him into the Iron Man.
Although the film can drag at points, a witty, refreshing and entertaining script breaks up any threatening tedium during the points between the jaw-dropping action sequences. However, the lead actor is what makes Iron Man transcend the Fantastic Four stable of effects and humour, and launches it into its very own league. If there’s ever a man that embodied an action hero, it’s Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. This film proves that he should have been one of the great actors of his generation – a consummate performer that not only makes the film, but also carries it on all levels. Unfortunately, the supporting cast isn’t as impressive. Gwyneth Paltrow seems out of sorts in a film of this kind, and while she certainly has chemistry with Downey, her character, Pepper Potts, changes quickly from being a strong and focused female lead to being another one of Tony’s floosies. As a result, we disengage too completely with her to ever fully sympathise towards the end. Likewise, while Jeff Bridges does put in a decent performance as a distasteful corporate veteran, his rapid transformation to homicidal villain is not as convincing as it could be.
A few minor flaws with casting and pacing aside, the real joy of Iron Man is its humour. Laughs are frequent and widespread and overall you get the sense that this film is one that knows exactly what it is, exactly what it wants to achieve, and has a real go at it without ever taking itself too seriously. Yes, this may not appeal to the post-Killing Joke crowds who may be more in tune with a Nolanesque vision of comic book films, but for those of us who just want to see Tony Stark being Tony Stark in the most sophisticated armoured vehicle known to man, Iron Man is our film.