Iron Man

Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow

Reviewer: Rhys Smith

The first of the summer’s blockbusters transports us into the world of one of Marvel Comics’ most controversial characters, the invincible Iron Man. It’s a fast paced and wonderfully acted adaptation of the life of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, the man inside the iron shell.

Playing the multi-faceted Mr Stark is Robert Downey Jr., an actor whose own demons have paralleled those of his on-screen persona. Downey is excellent as the “charming prick” (director John Favreau’s own description of Tony Stark) and embodies his character’s outward confidence and later his inner turmoil, as the moral discomfort of being a weapons manufacturer catches up with him.

Karma kicks into gear early in the film when Stark is kidnapped and injured by the very weapons he sells. In order to escape he is forced to construct a suit of armour… making him an iron man. He is also forced to create an electromagnetic device to prevent the shrapnel embedded in his heart from killing him. It is a quite beautiful duality: the armour that can stop tanks and armies, compared with the man who can barely crawl down the stairs without some circuitry in his chest.

No matter the in-jokes and character development, the plot feels clumsy and limp. It ticks over at a good pace, but lacks the gravitas and direction for a mature superhero film. Two of the main characters, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), Stark’s business partner and old family friend, and Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard), an Air Force officer and Stark’s best friend, feel cliché-ridden and shallow despite stellar performances. Gwyneth Paltrow, as Tony Stark’s long-suffering assistant Pepper Potts, is tragically underused, but given the scattered plot and action sequences this is not surprising.

The film’s dark humour and fan-boy jokes had me entertained from the start to the very end (hint: stay to the end of the credits), but it lacks the steely edge that could have elevated it amongst the greats of this genre.