Heroes aren’t born. They’re built.

A review of John Favreau’s Iron Man

Iron Man has always been one of the most popular superheroes among comic book fans, but Marvel took a risky move back in 2007 when they decided to make this $150 million action flick their first fully financed movie. However, Marvel’s gamble eventually paid off since Iron Man became a critically acclaimed box office hit which took the genre to new heights.

Iron Man is not your average hero. He doesn’t wear tight pants or a cape. He isn’t a 6’4” guy with the body of an MMA fighter, nor is an everyday bloke from a poor family who becomes the guardian angel of the town after a tragical incident which leaves him with magical powers. Actually, Tony Stark is the complete opposite of the regular superhero cliché, he is an arrogant, flamboyant playboy who possesses genius level intellect and is the CEO of Stark Industries, the greatest military contracting company in the world inherited from his father who was a key member of the Manhattan Project, a program which produced the first atomic bomb during World War II.

The movie starts with Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) travelling in war-torn Afghanistan with his contract liaison and best buddy, Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard) to give his “I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once” speech at the demonstration of his all-new weapons project, the Jericho with AC/DC’s Back in Black on full blast in the background. After the mood is set, director Jon Favreau puts the audience in the middle of intensive action without missing a beat as the convoy gets ambushed and the critically wounded Tony is kidnapped by terrorists using equipment manufactured by Stark Industries in order to get their own mountain-levelling missile. Fortunately, another prisoner named Yinsen (Shaun Toub) saves Stark’s life by installing an electromagnet into his chest which keeps the shrapnel away from his vital organs, but most importantly, the Persian scientist makes him question his legacy – whether he really wants to waste his life and die lonely as the Merchant of Death or actually make the world a better place with his talents. Upon this realization, Tony begins to construct the prototype of his masterpiece and their only chance to avoid certain death: a suit of armour. Stark starts his road to redemption by dismantling his own company and destroying all the assets which have gotten to the wrong hands despite the efforts of Obadiah Stane, a Stark Industries executive who has completely different intentions with the business and Tony’s new toy. Certain things will never change though, Stark still remains an extravagant hedonistic goofball who never takes himself or his new job too seriously.

Jon Favreau’s Iron Man contains most of the clichés of an origins movie: the painful beginnings when the hero discovers its powers while a closely related foe emerges from the dark equipped with similar tools or powers and it is only a matter of time until the two titans clash in an epic battle. However, Favreau tells the story with remarkable style while Robert Downey Jr.’s unforgettable performance takes the movie to a next level. Without any doubt, he was the ideal choice for Stark since he had also lived a troublesome life in the middle of the limelight and had to face his inner demons to overcome obstacles and reignite his career. He actually is Tony Stark and this is the reason why he is able to present the character’s transition with such authenticity. Downey Jr.’s persona defies the whole movie, everything is built around him. His electrifying energy and influence are felt in every line of the script. Although Jeff Bridges’ interpretation of Obadiah Stane is one of the greatest superhero villains with his cunning, bullish and stone cold mannerisms, he is no match to Downey Jr. in this film, in fact none of the other supporting cast members are. Though the scenes between Stark and his beautiful assistant slash budding love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) had some of its moments, I always felt that Paltrow, who performed decently in the role of the sexy, witty, but innocent heroine from the 1940s classics by the way, couldn’t really keep up with the pace of Downey Jr. Terrence Howard however, showcased fantastic chemistry with the lead actor as his best buddy and caretaker, Lt. Col. Rhodes even though I had an impression that some of his scenes have been dropped from the final cut therefore the character became underdeveloped.

After watching Transformers (2007), Jon Favreau decided to hire the Academy Award winning Industrial Light & Magic studio to do the visuals for the movie which proved to be an excellent decision since Iron Man looks stunning on the big screen or a HD TV. Although sometimes a bit too fast to follow, the well choreographed and jaw dropping action scenes are definitely one of the major fortes of Iron Man. What is more, the heavy industrial score with the contribution of the likes of Tom Morello make them blast even harder. Just the sound of the colliding heavy metal in the middle of a fight will send shivers down your spine and feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins when you hear the sonic boom and see the white halo as Iron Man reaches supersonic speed in his red and gold armour while being chased and shot at by F-22 Raptor fighting jets. Absolutely amazing.

Although I expected more from the finale, it is beyond all questions that director Jon Favreau managed to bring classic gunslingers back to life with extraordinary swagger and created a massive foundation for Marvel’s new superhero franchise. “Don’t waste your life” – said Yinsen at the beginning and there is no worry about wasting precious time of your own life with this movie. They call it marvel for a reason.

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