Directed by: John Favreau
Written by:Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bigg, Shaun Toub
Released: May 1, 2008
Grade: B+

Iron Man is the first major blockbuster of the American summer.  After a few months of mediocre releases, we’re finally going to be treated to something big.  Let me point out that not all of these mass-marketed movies will be good.  I think some of them will stink.  Still, there’s something exciting about sitting in a packed cinema with a sense of anticipation.  It’s a better atmosphere than sitting alone in a movie theatre while watching a movie that no one cares about (and that’s happened to me a few times this year already).

Iron Man is based on the comic book of the same name.  I haven’t read it nor have I read any of the other 100,000 comics that have been adapted into a movie in the last decade.  Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Iron Man – the first three-quarters of the film is spent developing his character.  I know that sounds like a long time but it’s not a bad thing.  The purpose of this movie is to show us how Iron Man was created. 

Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark.  He’s the owner of a weapons company called Stark Industries.  He makes the arms that are used by the U.S. military in their operations overseas.  There’s a scene where is grilled by a female news reporter on how he can live with himself, knowing that he is profiteering from wars and making missiles that kill thousands of people.  Tony doesn’t care.  There’s a market for his products and he is prepared to make money.

Stark’s attitude changes when he his kidnapped in Afghanistan whilst promoting his latest weapon, the Jericho.  He is taken to a bunker in an underground cave and is given an ultimatum.  He will be released but only if he can show them how to make a Jericho.  He agrees but has something else in mind.  Locked in a room with all the technology he wants, Starks makes a suit made of very strong iron.  He slips it on and breaks out of the cave.  When the guards try to shoot him down, the suit repels the bullets.  Ultimately, he finds his freedom and returns home to the United States.

At a press conference, Stark announces that he’ll be getting out of the weapons business.  He realises the gravity of what he has done over the years and the many innocent lives which have been lost.  Stark wants to help people instead of putting them in harms way.  This doesn’t sit well with the CEO of Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Bridges), who is worried about the ramifications of such a rash decision.  He knows that shareholders won’t be happy.  Stark doesn’t care however.  All he’s thinking about is designing an even better Iron Man suit – one that will allow him to fly around and help save those in trouble.

Yep, the film is worth recommending.  The highlight is the performance of Robert Downey Jr.  He gives the title character the right mix of seriousness and sarcasm.  He also gets all the laughs.  With a different actor in the role, I don’t think the film would have been as good.  Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow all have supporting roles but they don’t do a lot.

The action scenes are well put together and for the most part, the story was interesting.  There was easily enough material to keep my attention for 2 hours.  The better scenes are those where Downey Jr. develops his cool suit is his large basement.  The weaker scenes are those focusing on the bad guys and their evil doing.  When Robert Downey Jr. isn’t on screen, the film ain’t as good.