Rated: PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content Reviewed by: Jim Release date: May 2, 2008 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
Having a lightly bearded Robert Downey, Jr. as Marvel Superhero Iron Man turns out to be a great fit, just like the shiny red and gold suit the conflicted character dons.
The titular role for the mature actor notorious for his off screen woes embodied through Tony Stark is a real blend of fame, genius, and wealth. It seems that the actor's director in Jon Favreau (who found a way to make Will Ferrell quite a draw in Elf) knew Downey's capability in recreating the comic book character from his own personal experience.
Favreau, who had fun in a child-like fantasy way in Zathura, has much more ambition here with practical and special effects in making this "West Coast" superhero something to behold.
Inspired by Howard Hughes, Stark is an eccentric billionaire genius inventor and CEO of Stark Industries. He's reached celebrity status by protecting American interests abroad and is the top weapons contractor for the U.S. government. Downey provides an intensity and snap to the part that works on the character's gradual moral compass.
The pompously sardonic self-made womanizing industrialist is called by some "the merchant of death" and here he could have fit in right alongside Nicholas Cage in Lord of War. According to Stark's imperious wisdom, "you can always get what you want".
The story starts to gain much momentum when a demonstration of Stark's latest sophisticated weapon, the Jericho missile, in Afghanistan goes awry. He's coerced by hostile insurgents to build something incredible to allow for regional domination by a mysterious Genghis Khan-like bald Raza (Faran Tahir).
Through assistance of the medically-minded P.O.W. Yinsen, the versatile Shaun Toub, Stark is able to create a state-of-the-art armor suit that destructively enables him to elude his captors before a rescue from a desert crash landing.
On his return, there is a nice "hot rod garage feel" before the new and improved Mark III suit really becomes a character in itself with seamless f/x for Stark before rocketing out of his ocean-side Malibu mansion.
The screenplay, by two pairs of writers, contemporizes the origin Iron Man conflict to where a secret alliance, not known actually to be lslamic, is using Stark's stolen cache of weapons and remnants of his original suit. They dare not include a brisk flyby in Iraq in this election year.
Of course, being a "globo-cop" isn't something that is tolerated by the government, and puts his Air Force Pentagon liason Rhodey (Terence Howard) in a tricky situation. In taking Stark Industries in a new direction, Tony has put pressure on Obadiah Stane (a bald, bearded menacing Jeff Bridges), once his father's partner, now his right-hand man and top executive.
If Iron Man is often thrilling for its design and ingenuity of utilizing a vast geo-political landscape with reality and special effects, the final showdown with the imposing Iron Monger clangs too much of Transformers.
Favreau works lively with his crew, though not to rush into the sort of propulsion that a character Stark thrives on. Downey makes the most of a garrulous, obstinate man who develops a repulsor technology key to his superpower. The delivery of his line readings is entertaining in its own right and very good opposite a sharply poised Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's ever-loyal assistant Pepper Potts.
The final result may not be "technological Da Vinci" as Stark himself, but it sports something supercharged for fans of the original comic and those looking for something fresh when it concerns the Middle East.