With the release of The Avengers I wanted to see one more superhero flick to complete my mirage of the fearless heroes who were almost too “big” to be in the same frame let alone in the same film. He was Tony Stark or Iron Man as his alter ego is tagged. What I came away with was this: I liked the cocky billionaire a great deal more than reviews would have me think of him.
A brilliant mind is not all that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) boasts. No, he is also one wealthy man. Not just in America but in the world. The company that his father started with his own advanced WWII technology, Stark Industries today supplies weapons for the U.S. military and even though he died young, Tony and his father’s business associate Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) have kept his family’s legacy going. It is that company that has allowed him to live in luxury. Though a notorious playboy, Tony is also famous for his brilliant inventions that have saved countless American lives. While in Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest missile technology, Tony is snatched from his convoy and taken to a remote location. When he finally awakens, Tony learns from his fellow captive that he barely survived the attack and is being kept alive by a device attached to a common car battery that is stopping the shrapnel from his wounds that could not be removed from reaching his heart. The purpose of Tony’s capture by the band of renegade terrorists is to force him to duplicate the missile. Unbeknownst to his captors, he instead builds a suit of armor as a means of escape. It is this that changes his life.
Following rescue by his military friend Rhodey (Terrence Howard) once on American soil, Tony now sees his inventions as a danger to the world instead of barriers that protect lives – he saw how easily they fell into the hands of people who wish America harm and as a result, he is pulling his military connection much to the shock and anger of Stane and the press. Firm in his decision, Tony is not about to be swayed by the press or his business partner – no matter what. Not even his loyal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) confusion is changing Tony’s mind. Instead of building more weapons, he vows to protect the people from the very weapons he engineered.
Because of the reviews I’d read or discussions I’d had about Iron Man back when it was making news, I had a fixed idea of who this man was as a character. I had him pegged as a selfish, easily unlikable dude who spent his days playing with the toys his billions bought him that was about all there was to him. Imagine my surprise when I discovered for myself that there is a lot more to Tony Stark than first impressions. As my opinions had started to form from this summer’s earlier blockbuster, I was pleased that my notion of him from that wasn’t totally destroyed. I won’t deny that he is a playboy stereotype because, well, he is (before twenty minutes pass, we see him take a girl home in a love-em-and-leave-em scenario, then leave Pepper to deal with it) but I couldn’t help but like him – probably partly because of the part he played in The Avengers which is where first I “met” the eccentric billionaire.
Strictly from a production value, this movie is totally awesome. It has gizmos and gadgets galore, and the special effects are cool in those respects. The opening gamut gets the movie off to a great start but then about fifteen to twenty minutes in, things begin to move a bit too slow for my tastes. Following the capture of Tony, the film flashbacks to 36 hours prior in order to lay some background which is why the particular section of the film that follows could have benefitted from better pacing (until then, it was quite good). It is actually important to know that this movie tells how Tony Stark came to be Iron Man and therefore is less about ridding the world of bad guys in terrific showdowns and more about learning to become the kind of guy who could accomplish that – and want to do that without selfish motivation. It surprised me that it wasn’t more of an action packed kind of movie but on reflection I liked that it took time to change Tony over the near two hours because in the end that was more important than anything.
Irrespective of his troubled personal life, RDJ is a fabulous actor and not unlike some of his other memorable impersonations, he does this one justice. The banter between he and Paltrow’s Pepper is rather underwhelming as is their screen time together but they are cute whenever they are together and I look forward to discovering how they get to the comfortable place they are at in their relationship in The Avengers. Likewise veteran Bridges is superb joining the ranks of the rest of the equally fabulous supporting cast. Ever since this franchise was first made for modern audiences and as a live-action film, this movie appealed to me. I held off because I was the only one in my family who showed much interest but seeing the other Marvel films that I had, I knew seeing this would come about sooner not later. It may not be as exciting as some of its counterparts or quite as stirring but Iron Man is a phenomenally good time. Now, all I need is Iron Man 2 to bring everything full circle.
(Rated PG13: there is one scene that shows Tony and his one-night fling rolling around in the sheets [they fall off the bed clothed]. We do see her the next morning walking around in only a shirt; there are a few other instances of immodest clothing. Profanity is scarce but a few minor ones do pop up here and there. Violence amounts to a military convoy being blown up; exploding vehicles and soldiers being shot [there is some blood]. Briefly we catch glimpses of Tony’s crude surgery procedure. A man wipes out villages and kills innocent people; men are killed with machine guns [off-camera]. There are some tense moments including the climax in which multiple things blow up or are tossed in the air [i.e., cars]. There is drinking.)