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The International Writers Magazine: DVD Review

Iron Man (2008)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
Driected by Jon Favreau

Dan Crossen

Superhero movies as of late have been rather disappointing. From the villain filled fiasco that was Spiderman 3 to the truly abysmal attempt at an adaptation of the Fantastic 4, these films have been aimed more at the public’s wallets than the critic’s good books. But as we see Marvel Studios break away from many of its partners and begin producing movies on its own, it seems like they actually care more about the quality of the film. With Iron Man being Marvel’s very first solo production, they have set the standard pretty high for the films that will inevitably follow.

The story begins with Tony Stark, the man with the suit, in Afghanistan being attacked and taken hostage, before quickly jumping back in time 36 hours to show Stark’s background. If you haven’t read the comics or heard of Iron Man before then this part of the film nicely sums up Tony Stark, an egotistical, arrogant billionaire. However his attitude is not completely unfounded, he is also a genius scientist and mechanic, designing and building weapons for the US military. When he is captured he is thrown into a cave and told to build an extremely powerful missile, but instead he perseveres with the materials and the first Iron Man suit is born, a huge, clunky piece of industrial metal. It is a little strange that the bad guys didn’t notice him building it on the security cameras, but you instantly forget about this the moment he smashes through the door and starts throwing people across the cave. From here he goes on to find out secrets about his company, Stark Industries, that his fathers friend, Obadiah Staine, has been keeping from him, leading him to refine the Iron Man suit to put an end to them.

Robert Downey Jr. is not an obvious choice for the role of Iron Man, with the actors history of drink, drugs, and jail-time possibly not the best example for kids watching their hero on the big screen, but Downey’s performance is truly spectacular. He brings a unique feel of naturalness to the role, actually managing to take the audiences focus off of the prospect of seeing Iron Man on the screen again, and putting the focus on himself. We’re not just watching this film to see Iron Man do cool things, the characters really come into their own and we really begin to care about them.

Downey Jr.’s acting style also manages to avoid what I like to call ‘the super-hero pit of cheese’ that 99% of these films fall into. They just get so wrapped up in themselves being a super-hero story that the feeling of real life is completely sucked away, with none of the dialogue being even remotely feasible in a real life conversation. But you can see yourself saying the things that they do without feeling like a complete idiot. Some of the action sequences however do border on the cheesy, with big explosions and bad guy’s lifting up cars full of family’s, but these sections of the film should just be enjoyed rather than taken seriously, they are based on comic books after all.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Pepper Potts, assistant to Tony Stark, is a strange one. At the start of the film she is an independent and intelligent woman, managing to put up with Stark’s sexist nonsense and sleeping around. But as she and Stark grow closer, she for some reason becomes stupider. Towards the end she begins making extremely ditzy remarks that aren’t particularly funny or helpful, just annoying, so a little more character consistency from her would have been nice.

Marvel have decided that their new films will be part of an ‘expanded universe’ currently only including Iron Man and the new Incredible Hulk but set to include such super-hero favourites like Captain America and The Avengers. Even though this plan hasn’t been fully implemented yet, the astute viewer will notice references to other things from Marvel Comics such as the intelligence Agency S.H.I.E.L.D and references to Stark Industries past, and though not particularly useful to a newcomer, it always feels nice recognising something from the comics.

I for one and glad Marvel have gone independent, it seems like they are actually trying to be different from these money-grabbing huge studios (who seem to still be producing awful films like the Scary Movies for more money), and are finally making some super-hero films they can proud of, and that the diehard comic book fans can’t deride for being too Hollywood in its style. That’s a good combination, and I hope they stick with it.

© Dan Crossen November 2008
dancrossen1 at

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