Iron Man (2008)

Reviewed by Natasha J. Stillman

Iron Man, directed by John Favreau, (Elf, Zathura: A Space Adventure) is a slick and well-paced ride from beginning to end. Favreau has never directed a film on this action scale before, and it’s to his credit that he cast Robert Downey Jr. to play the title role. Downey Jr. certainly embodies Tony Stark — a brilliant inventor, unapologetic weapons manufacturer, and billionaire playboy. Tony finds his conscience and makes a really freakin’ cool robo-suit after he is captured by a fighting faction in Afghanistan.

While the whole playboy billionaire thing seems to be popular, wishful-thinking for comic book writers to base their superheros upon, (Batman and Green Arrow are just two others) Downey Jr. brings something new to this role. He is eminently watchable – full of brashness, humour, arrogance, intelligence, and charm. Truly ‘magnetic.’

The fantastic Terence Howard plays a military man and Stark’s best friend.  Jeff Bridges is convincing in his role, as well. (The baldness was a new look for him, which worked for him here.) The Pakistani-American actor, Faran Tahir, who played the leader of the guerilla faction in Afghanistan, (also sans hair) was definitely a presence, and will be seen next in J.J Abram’s upcoming Star Trek movie.

The main problem with the film was the two lead female characters, who were sadly underdeveloped and disappointing. They fell into the very convenient, but hardly original “madonna and whore”characterizations, far too simplified and shallow compared to what they could have been. The intrepid reporter, Christine Everhart, is played by Leslie Bibb of TV’s Popular and Crossing Jordan, and Gwyneth Paltrow plays Pepper Potts, Stark’s anachronistic “Girl Friday.” Pepper supports her “Mr. Stark” through all his dastardly military dealings, and never once questions him until he has his…‘change of heart.’ Apparently, what is most important about her character is that, though she is completely besotted with Tony Stark, she keeps her legs welded shut and the snarky comments to a maximum. The copious shots of her spiked-heel footwear (product placement, anyone?) throughout the movie were also annoying. She wears them as she goes on a dangerous fact-finding mission and even during the climactic battle.

Why does Hollywood rarely put a woman in sensible shoes during the action in such movies?

It’s just plain idiotic.  Furthermore, this Pepper character whines so much about why Stark has to go out and risk his life, be a hero, and save the world, that one can only wonder if the writers have ever attributed the traits ‘honor’, ‘sacrifice,’ and ‘valor’ to women. We can only look forward to the day Hollywood turns out female characters in action movies female viewers can be proud of.

Despite these shortcomings, Iron Man is a not-to-be-missed movie, especially if you’re a fan of the action/superhero genre, and of course, of Robert Downey Jr.