Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Iron Man

directed by Jon Favreau

Iron Man poster  
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is exactly the sort of arrogant, womanising billionaire it's hard to feel sorry for in any circumstance. His engineering genius has brought him wealth, fame, and the attentions of many beautiful women. But he treats people with little respect, and he's made his money by building bigger and better weapons.

On a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate Stark Industries' latest creation, the Jericho, his convoy is attacked. Stark barely survives. Left with shrapnel wounds that could kill him in weeks and imprisoned in a cave, things look bad. His captors are mercenaries. Stark is given one week and the parts salvaged from other weapons to build them a replica of the Jericho missile, in return for his freedom. But Stark realises that they don't intend to set him free after he makes their missile, so he decides to work on something different.

Iron Man has a touch of American war propaganda about it. The US military are shown in the best light, well-organised and heroic. By contrast the mercenaries are rough, bearded, rag-tag and ruthless, a truly international selection of some of the world's nastiest men.

The experience in Afghanistan leaves Tony Stark changed. After he sees how the weapons made by his company have ended up in all the wrong hands he has a change of heart. But his change of direction could cost his company dear, so it doesn't make him popular with the other directors.

Stark's home is run by a computer known as Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany), and with the help of his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). It's a very high-tech place, very modern and flashy, like Tony himself. Jarvis seems to have some kind of artificial intelligence, and Stark almost seems to get on with his computers better than he relates to real people, although he's far more flamboyant than your typical nerd. Pepper Potts and Tony's air force friend Rhodey (Terrence Howard) also inject a subtle humour into the proceedings.

However there's nothing subtle about the ensuing action scenes. The Iron Man suit is incredibly gaudy, and the action has a characteristic Marvel flavour. With a brightly dressed flying superhero, an oversized villain, a corrupt corporation and lots of crashes and explosions, it has all of the elements we have come to expect of the superhero genre. If anything it's a touch clichéd. There's no doubt that Iron Man is intended to appeal to the same young male demographic as recent movie franchises such as Spider Man and Fantastic 4.

Fortunately production values are high, and the story is always entertaining enough to make it easy to overlook the film's less believable aspects. I'm not talking about the sci-fi elements like the flying suit or the sophisticated Jarvis. What's incredible is how someone as dissolute, lazy and irresponsible as Tony Stark could ever manage to put in the work that's required to become an expert in his field, much less a genius. And how does he manage to withstand all of the high-speed collisions he's involved in, encased in a metal suit that barely has any room for cushioning? Iron Man is a film full of larger-then-life characters with personalities as vivid as Iron Man's suit. It's fun, but it's not meant to stand up to close scrutiny.

Film Details

Year: 2007

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Jon Favreau