Rated: 3 Stars- Rated: 5 Stars for fans of the comic. 


{mosimage}How does Iron Man (126 minutes) compare to other comic book-inspired movies?  Much better than the last X-Men sequel, better than Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, better than Spiderman 3, better than Bryan Singer’s Superman, and better than Ang Lee’s The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man told a decent, updated, single hero origin story, focusing on the technical development of the suit, throwing in lots of explosions and cool gadgets. This is a movie with good source material and a practiced lead (Robert Downey Jr.) that tons of people will see more than once in the theaters.  

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) inherited Stark Industries from his father, who started the company during World War II. Obadiah Stane (The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges) handles the business side of the company, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, looking so pretty with freckles) takes care of Tony, and Air Force Lieutenant Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) acts as Tony’s friend. While Tony drinks, gambles and enjoys the kind of lavish lifestyle that Bruce Wayne would envy, the company exploits his genius for engineering weaponry. Some creative storytelling is employed for the first half of the movie, and Tony ends up in Afghanistan to show a new weapon to the U.S. Air Force. There, a terrorist group led by the clichÄd Raza (Faran Tahir) captures him, and rather than make the weapon they want, Tony manufactures an armored suit in order to escape. After returning to America, Tony makes a surprise announcement and retreats to his laboratory to work in secret. Much of the remaining plot involves Tony learning which of the first billed cast he can trust.

A ton of writers worked on the final version, which is usually a flashing red danger sign. However, there are surprisingly few plot holes, and some witty dialogue. Downey Jr., unlike many of the newcomers who suit up to play comic characters, can really act. Jon Favreau displays a light hand with material that could easily turn campy. He deftly updates an origin story, trimming away the soap opera fat that so frequently bogs down such classic Stan Lee material, without sacrificing main character development or comic book style fun.

So why the three-star rating? Well, the villain, although well played, is not given enough to do. The character just doesn’t seem all that tough, and plays his hand a little too early in the film. Perhaps the writers or the director didn’t give the audience credit for intelligence enough to follow the plot and character development. Rather than letting the actor work the material, the character just lingers in corners laughing evilly. Go watch how Bryan Singer developed Magneto in the original X-Men movie! And is it too much to ask that Rhodes, the single nonwhite character, get something to do other than set up Downey Jr. for his one-liners? We won’t even get into Paltrow’s version of Pepper Potts, true to the original character as she may be. Couldn’t the writers empower Pepper? She crushes on a guy who sleeps around with random women and can’t even remember her birthday, runs around in high heels and can’t seem to make decisions. The worst kind of female sidekick! All in all, I’ve seen worse.  A note to the mega-fans ╔ watch the credits. You won’t be sorry. 

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