Iron Man

Iron Man

***1/2

Reviewed by: Chris

Since Marvel Comics and CGI started their mystical marriage in the late 1990s, we’ve had superheroes galore. Hulks, Surfers, Spider-men, not to mention renewed Batmans and Supermans. So what does Iron Man have to offer that’s different?

A flawed character who becomes honourable is the answer, triumphing in the battle of Good over Evil in spite of being a bit of a prat.

Copy picture

Add to that some of the best features of RoboCop, Batman Begins and Terminator 2, and you have one of the more satisfying comic-books-turned-blockbuster that we’ve seen for a while.

Billionaire and genius Tony Stark – with a personality vaguely based on Howard Hughes – is a weapons inventor that gets captured by bad guys in Afghanistan. Forced to work for them, he has other plans. Stark, nicely played by Robert Downey Jr, fashions a hi-tech suit of armour - before going on to save the world in usual exemplary fashion.

This long build-up – to explain how he becomes Iron Man – is arguably the best part of the film. Ingenious special effects give Stark’s futuristic Malibu mansion a sci-fi rather than fantasy feel. And the subtle build-up makes us more forgiving as the story slips slowly into comic-book reality.

There are, of course, compromises. It has to appeal to kids as well as adults, so there is none of the gutsiness of The Terminator (or similar adult-orientated sci-fi). And in spite of the heavy moral-political issues at stake, Iron Man stays politically bland – this being the only way to get D.O.D. approval and hence associated goodies like fighter jets and military hardware.

One of the most interesting ideas for me in the film was the idea of ‘zero accountability’. This takes the form of having all the wealth, brains and playboy attributes that fiction writers can imagine, but could also be a symbol for U.S. military might, for instance. Stark’s first premise, of power being the ultimate deterrent (and hence a peace-keeping force) is undermined when the enemy gets hold of the same weapons and starts killing indiscriminately. Theologians might also muse how power itself has no moral authority. Good guys have to grudgingly beseech permission from whoever wields the biggest thunderbolt. Iron Man’s technology has a special feature to avoid targeting civilians - one military development I would love to see.

Iron Man, essentially a symbol of power, abounds in biblical references, even if these come more from the comic book creators than any learning on the part of filmmakers. Jericho, the name given to Stark’s finest military weapon, was the city that had to be destroyed, ‘as an outward display of faith.’ Which makes for great symbolism. Until you consider that modern-day Jericho is in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories, and then Stark’s ‘rockets’ start to look a lot more loaded.

The second half of the movie is pure action, but with a well-delivered script and sufficient plot-twists to keep you engaged. Out-of-reach love-interest materialises as Gwyneth Paltrow, who I found very agreeable to watch, and the excellent supporting cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard. This is a film that tries to please everyone and largely succeeds. It’s a two-hour thrill-ride that offers a new action-hero for our CGI-sated palates.

On a personal note, my big disappointment was the title track – or rather lack of it. Having heard one of the most famous heavy metal riffs of all time in the trailer, I couldn’t wait to see Iron Man flying through the skies to the sound of Black Sabbath’s rock anthem. Sadly, the riff is all you get (probably cos the words seem to be based on an altogether different story). But if you sit through the closing credits hoping for more, you do at least get a very important extra scene. So you’ve been warned: don’t leave the cinema beforehand!

Reviewed on: 01 May 2008
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Iron Man packshot
A wealthy industrialist fights evil with a newly invented super-suit.
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Read more Iron Man reviews:

Daniel Hooper ****
Stephen Carty ****

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Sayed Badreya, Bill Smitrovich, Clark Gregg, Tim Guinee

Year: 2008

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2013

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