Iron Man is a superhero movie, there’s no doubt about that. Its protagonist, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a womanising, arms-dealing alcoholic, may not be your typical do-gooder, but this is still obviously a Marvel comics adaptation. However, familiarity doesn’t deter from the fact that Iron Man does the “superhero origins story” extremely well, and is arguably the best of its kind since Spider-Man.
The film sees Stark’s morally-bankrupt wünderkind industrialist kidnapped by Afghani insurgents (who, as it turns out, are supplied with Stark weapons) and forced to make them village-flattening missiles. Escaping via the use of a crudely-constructed metal suit, Stark vows to find out how these men obtained his products and turn his attention to fighting evil as the eventually-dubbed “Iron Man,” helped, of course, along the way by plucky secretary/flirt-dispenser Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and long-suffering pilot buddy James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard).
And, indeed, one of the film’s main attractions is its terrific cast. RDJ, for example, is simply electric as our hero, his genius move being to capture Stark’s transformation into a wisecracking, wide-eyed humanist to ensure our protagonist remains, for lack of a better word, a bastard, but allowing the audience to relate to him. It’s certainly the best-acted superhero yet seen.
Paltrow, meanwhile, provides a rather good- and surprisingly sympathetic- love interest, even if her character remains paper-thin. Howard, too, brings some nice gravitas to his sidekick No. 2 role, even if he’s criminally underused. However, the highlight of the supporting cast remains Jeff Bridges as Stark’s mentor and guardian (and champion beard-grower), Obadiah Stone. Sinister, charismatic and occupying a satisfying amount of screen-time (compare to Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man), Bridges’ portrayal may be hammy and hungry for scenery to chew, but it remains a blast.
Iron Man’s special effects, too, are very impressive, providing the gravity which Transformers lacked and culminating in a brilliant, if ridiculous, CGI-fest of a battle. That leaves Favreau’s direction, which is good if unremarkable. At the very least, it compliments the action and never hampers the audience’s enjoyment, however it doesn’t display the artistic flair of Sam Raimi or Chris Nolan. Meanwhile, while the contemporary Middle-East setting (a phrase so clichéd I feel guilty writing it) actually works rather well, one could complain about Iron Man’s cardboard cut-out Arabic enemies, who are so simplistically-realised they border on racist. The generic Soviet baddies of the ‘80s come to mind.
But, I suppose, to complain about such things could be missing the point somewhat; Iron Man is a brilliant popcorn flick which succeeds in making you feel like a giddy child again whilst retaining a certain degree of brains. Perhaps a little too short and simple to reach the heights of Batman Begins, the film is nonetheless bloody good entertainment, with a great cast having a whale of a time. I may only be giving it 3 stars but it’s a very high 3 stars and I thoroughly recommend you to go and see it.
Let there be sequels…