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The Independent Critic

Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges
Jon Favreau
Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Rated PG-13
126 Mins.

 "Iron Man" Review 
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I'm drawing a line in the sand.

Seriously. If you don't like "Iron Man," then you should stop going to movies.

I'm being quite serious. I'm not saying you have to declare "Iron Man" the second coming of the superhero film.

I'm not saying you have to scream out "INJUSTICE" if it's not nominated for a slew of Oscars.

I'm simply saying that there is SOMETHING in "Iron Man" to please everyone.

With director Jon Favreau ("Elf," "Swingers") at the helm and Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role, "Iron Man" is an intelligent, well-acted, funny, exciting and entertaining film that sets the bar high for this summer's other superhero flicks, including Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated second "Batman" flick.

There's so much RIGHT about "Iron Man" that it's hard to believe Hollywood hadn't had the balls to make such a film before.

Okay, it's not so hard to imagine the a Hollywood studio machine without balls.

I'm convinced that Jon Favreau could direct traffic and make it entertaining, and "Iron Man" gives Favreau the chance to blend stellar acting, a wealth of techno wizardry and a surprising degree of heartfelt humanity into a superhero film that fires on all cylinders.

As Tony Stark, the immensely flawed playboy and warmonger whose capture by Afghani rebels triggers a change of heart, Robert Downey, Jr. jumps back to the top of his game and instantly makes it fathomable that come awards season a superhero flick may very well be acknowledged for more than its amazing special effects.

Favreau may seem an unlikely director for a superhero film. Favreau's a patient director, and patience has never really been a virtue of most superhero films. With the exception of Nolan's "Batman," superhero films largely commit themselves to a "throw it at the screen" approach to special effects with only occasional strokes of a storyline or character development.

"Iron Man," on the other hand, takes almost an hour to set the scene and really let us get to know the central characters involved in what is, essentially, a very basic storyline.

Downey, Jr. has always been one of Hollywood's best actors, a man sabotaged only by his own propensity for finding trouble, substances and obstacles. His path through Hollywood may have proven to be the perfect training ground for Tony Stark, a similarly gifted man sabotaged by his own intelligence and desire for fame, power and women.

As Stark and as "Iron Man," Downey, Jr. perfectly blends Favreau's worlds of innocence, technology, good overcoming evil, mischief and humanity. Whether he is playing with a blonde reporter in his oceanside bedroom or with his latest superhero gadget in his palatial basement laboratory, Downey, Jr. offers up the most richly felt performance in this type of film since, well, forever.

Infinitely watchable for Downey, Jr. alone, "Iron Man" transcends the superhero sub-genre on the strength of its stellar ensemble cast.

As Stark's partner turned adversary, a surprisingly coiffed Jeff Bridges adds a complex humanity to the usual one-note bad guy role. Bridges' Obadiah Stane joyously unfolds despite the conflict's rather predictable resolution.

Likewise, Gwyneth Paltrow elevates the "sidekick" role with her relaxed, endearing spin as Pepper Potts, a woman fiercely loyal to her boss despite her confusion over his sudden change of direction.

The always dependable Terrence Howard shines as military man Jim Rhodes, a man who simultaneously seems to babysit Stark while fighting the war on terror. While Rhodes feels a tad underdeveloped, Howard brings him vividly to life in the film's later scenes as his bond with Stark becomes more and more obvious.

Too often in these types of films, the storyline seems to be developed as a way to enhance the special effects. In "Iron Man," Favreau does just the opposite. The script by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby ("Children of Men") enhances the film's special effects.

Downey, Jr. seemed an odd choice for "Iron Man." After all, he's an intelligent, deeply felt and, dare I say it, aging actor not exactly known for an abundance of action flicks. In reality, Downey, Jr. makes the perfect superhero because he's a superhero with whom we can identify.

Okay. Okay. Quit rolling your eyes. Yes, I recognize that Stark is far wealthier than you and I and, yes, he snags far more babes than you and I.

You know what I mean. Starks wasn't born a superhero, he becomes one largely as a result of the evolution of his life and his circumstances. While Starks may live in the upper-income world, Downey, Jr. as Starks lives in the very real world of corporate warfare, conflicted emotions, troubled relationships and global politics.

Those who prefer fantasy superheroes are likely to prefer Nolan's "Batman," while those who resonate more with a reality-centered superhero are likely to consider Favreau's "Iron Man" one of the best films to come along.

It goes without saying that "Iron Man" won't please everyone. Superhero films never do.

3/4 of an hour for character development? It won't please everyone.

Special effects that enhance the story? Some people, say Michael Bay, would prefer straightforward blast em' special effects.

Cinematography, courtesy of Matthew Libatique, that captures the soul inside the machines? It'll drive some folks nuts.

I stand by my original statement.

While "Iron Man" may not be a perfect film, I'm still drawing a line in the sand.

If you don't like "Iron Man," then you should stop going to movies.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic