Tony Stark [Robert Downey Jr.] is a hedonistic billionaire weapons manufacturer until a trip to Afghanistan for a weapons demonstration ends with him in the hands of terrorists. He builds himself a suit of iron armor to escape and goes on to put together a more refined version to enable him to save the people who have been put in harm’s way by his company’s weapons.
Iron Man is about a lot of things: a modern knight in shining armor; crazed ambition; superheroics; even innovative CGI [check out Stark manipulating CG plans as if they were the real thing]. Oddly enough, despite its political ramifications and good old-fashioned superheroic fun, in the end, Iron Man is about a guy who goes through a kind of reverse mid-life crisis. The hedonistic, irresponsible Stark metamorphoses into a more – dare I say – mature adult by deciding to kill his company’s weapons making business in favor of some thing more planet friendly.
Downey isn’t working in a vacuum, either. It’s been a while since Gwyneth Paltrow has glowed so brightly on the big screen – here playing Stark’s right-hand person with considerable aplomb [watching her keep Stark on his toes is a delight]. Jeff Bridges makes for an affably deceptive villain and Terrence Howard makes his small role as Stark’s best friend shine.
While the action scenes aren’t as accomplished as something by Michael Bay, they come off better because director Jon Favreau understands that it’s the characters that make everything else in the film work. He keeps the pace high enough to prevent lessening of interest and knows how to make the film’s effects serve the story. This is a film with surprising wit and genuine intelligence.
Final Grade: A-