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USA 2008
Directed by
Jon Favreau
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Iron Man

Synopsis: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is a child prodigy who has become the world’s biggest manufacturer of weapons. Captured by Afghani terrorists and forced to work to build weapons for them, he instead builds an armoured battle suit to help him escape. Once free, he dedicates himself to refining the design and dealing with his legacy of destruction.

Taking a refreshing approach, Iron Man is a comic book adaptation that is unabashedly comic book. Unlike the dour seriousness of Batman Begins or the messianic misfire of Superman Returns, this is a film that is definitely having fun with its subject matter. Iron Man treads the line between serious and silly with a story that, at least loosely, addresses the accountability and morality of weapons manufacture and the role of corporate greed in our planet's never-ending cycle of military conflicts, without ever stopping being a fun film with sharp, witty dialogue and some severely outlandish situations. This is helped by the fact that Robert Downey Jnr is clearly having the time of his life playing the billionaire playboy turned superhero, Tony Stark. And Jeff Bridges relishes playing corporate villain Obadiah Stane with one of the worst examples of facial coiffure to ever grace the screen. They chew scenery like a pair of old pros, gleefully pushing reality into second place ahead of entertainment. But holding it all in check is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts. She’s the solid core whose gravity keeps the others from losing credibility.

The dialogue between Stark and Pepper is sparkling in the best Rock Hudson/Doris Day manner, and Downey Jnr alone is worth the price of admission. His performance is engaging and fun. Even if he doesn’t entirely sell his remorse for past sins, his actions speak for themselves and overall the idea of a man changed by his experiences is well-presented.

The film falters in the second half however, as most of these superhero origin stories do. As the villains and issues of the first half give way to a menace closer to hand, with the building of a rival armoured suit, the film loses momentum. Not that it should, since the proposition of two highly-advanced armoured suits duking it out should be exciting to any lover of action, but unfortunately the final battle is sadly mundane. It’s a letdown in a film that has so far delivered a very cool series of action set-pieces. It’s not a bad fight, just not nearly as dynamic and super-powered as you’d expect.

The lighting, production design and costuming all lend themselves well to creating a light and bright crowd-pleaser. And this is what makes Iron Man the fun that it is. It doesn’t waste time with Tony Stark staring into a dark mirror and worrying about how awful he is. It’s a lot more practical than that. He sees the world he’s helped shape, and not liking what he sees, he sets out to fix it. It’s a very positive approach, and one that is very appealing after the tortured antics of so many recent disappointments in the superhero genre.




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