A contributed review by LadyOscar23
I went into Iron Man with no expectations. Actually, that’s not true. I expected it to suck. I had concluded that no one seemed to be capable of making an entertaining action film anymore. Perhaps the creators had grown cynical—why write a script or hire real actors when you can still sell a million toys without them? Perhaps they really couldn’t tell the difference between a movie with a plot, characters, and exciting action sequences and a giant confusing blob of computer graphics. Either way, I had pretty much given up.
Iron Man restored my faith. It had a straightforward, engaging plot, likeable characters, and sufficiently cool effects. It didn’t try to be more than a good, entertaining film, but in bothering to craft a good, entertaining film the creators actually managed to go a bit beyond that. Perhaps because it was released early in the year, and was later overshadowed by the much splashier (and less entertaining) The Dark Knight, Iron Man didn’t even get the courtesy of a full set of Oscar nominations in the sci-fi ghetto categories (sound, makeup, effects, etc.). I think that’s a shame, and I’m glad to see that it at least made sufficient profit for the studio to commission a sequel (which may or may not turn out to be a good thing).
Here’s the Oscar.com synopsis:
Following his abduction by terrorists in Afghanistan, billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark decides to use his brilliance as an inventor to help bring an end to violence in the world. Outfitting himself with an enormous metallic suit that functions as its own weapons system, Stark becomes a one-man international crime fighting army–a role that brings him into conflict with the U.S. government.
On the surface, Iron Man seems like a weird choice of comic to adapt for film. The protagonist is a billionaire weapons manufacturer who is also a dissipated womanizer, and everyone in the story is an adult. Armored suit costumes have the strong potential to be goofy-looking and are notoriously hard to act through. While the comic has been around for a long time, it doesn’t have the popularity of Superman, Batman, or even the Incredible Hulk.
The film of Iron Man shows how such obstacles can be overcome by casting the right actors and then letting them do their stuff. Robert Downey, Jr. was an inspired choice for Tony Stark. Not only is his personal history rather apropos, but he has such a likeable presence that his Tony Stark seems less like kind of jerk and more like a human being whose flaws make him more sympathetic. I’m not a huge Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but I liked her here. Their characters had good chemistry and a relationship that managed to be subtly adult without showing anything to gross out younger viewers. (In fact, the entire film pulled off the trick of being reasonably adult while sitting comfortably in its PG-13 rating.) I came away from the movie with the impression that pains had been taken to give the actors a good script, and was amused to read later that many of Tony Stark’s lines, including his speech to the weapons buyers early in the film, were ad-libs by Robert Downey, Jr. He embodied the character to such an extent that they seemed completely natural, and movie authors also allowed him to perform the essential superhero task of expressing angst with the look in his eyes, rather than through cumbersome speeches.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is an example of an effect done right. It was entertaining to look at, generally had a plausible physicality, and wasn’t allowed to upstage the actors. All the directors, actors, and effects people complaining about Batman’s Bat-suit should take notice.
Iron Man wasn’t perfect. My suspension of disbelief was a little strained in places; during any explanation of what exactly is wrong with Tony Stark’s heart I had to mentally stick my fingers in my ears and chant “la, la, la I can’t heeeear you”. The effects were all fun to watch, but sometimes a little over-the-top. (Why is Tony Stark bothering to sell weapons when his 3D computer-aided design interface alone would rake in billions?) I have a weakness for cute robots, but people who don’t may find Stark’s lab assistants annoying. (At least I understand they were put in to give him a way to talk to himself while alone in the lab, rather that just to be gratuitous.) The end villain was predictable and a bit cardboard, and the end battle approached the limit of my tolerance for watching robot suits fight one another.
In the end, though, I can forgive a film with a good heart and good characters a lot more than I needed to forgive here. I hereby give Iron Man an accolade that may seem like damning with faint praise, but that I would bestow upon precious few movies I’ve seen in recent years. Namely, I would very much like to see it again.