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Movie Review: "Iron Man"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/2/2008

Theatrical Release: 5/2/2008

Synopsis

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a billionaire, he is a genius, he is an inventive engineer, and he is the owner of his late father's company, Stark Industries. The company designs and manufactures weapons for the military, and the Stark family has become extremely wealthy as a result of the company's success. Tony is also a bit of a playboy, getting himself into his share of trouble that his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his trusted friend and bodyguard, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), usually have to get him out of. However, the latest trouble he has found himself in has put him far outside the reaches of Pepper and Happy.

During his trip to Afghanistan, where he was testing his latest, devastating missile, Tony and the military convoy protecting him found themselves on the receiving end of weapons branded with the Stark Industries logo. Tony survived the attack, but just barely, and only due to the genius of a scientist that the terrorists tasked with keeping Tony alive. The terrorists are keeping him alive for now, but they want him to build them a weapon. Tony, however, comes up with another plan. He chooses instead to build an exosuit to help him escape, and in the process, he becomes a hero known as Iron Man. Now he just needs to find out how these terrorists got their hands on his weapons.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Robert Downey Jr. (+10pts)

Yinsen & Cave Supervision (-4pts)

Tony Stark & Friends (+6pts)

The Superhero Formula (-3pts)

Iron Man (+8pts)

Obadiah Stane (-4pts)

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Pro: Robert Downey Jr. (+10pts)

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was simply a perfect combination. While Robert Downey Jr. definitely brought the role to life, it was not just him that made the character work so well. The casting director had to find the right fit for the part, and I would say they did that well. The writer had to write a script, developing the character and giving him a unique voice that audiences could connect with, and I think they did that well also.

The costume director had to come in and make sure he always looked believable as a playboy, an arrogant billionaire, and a genius inventor, and Robert Downey Jr. had to give an entertaining and relatable performance in each of those roles. Then finally the director had to take everything that was shot and make sure the overall vision translated to the screen. I am sure there were even more pieces to the puzzle, but I think you get my point. I think the stars truly aligned for Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Iron Man, and it made this movie a joy to watch.

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Con: Yinsen & Cave Supervision (-4pts)

If I were two sum up both of these things into one word, that word would be: convenient. Tony Stark got severely injured during the attack, but conveniently, Yinsen (Shaun Toub) was there to save the day in the most ridiculous fashion that only a superhero movie—or maybe a James Bond movie—could pull off. With a magnet and a car battery, the scientist was able to keep Tony alive, but it felt like little more than lazy writing to explain the thing the filmmakers wanted glowing in Tony’s chest.

Then there was the supervision—or lack thereof—that Tony had while doing his work in the cave. In order for this movie to happen, the filmmakers asked us to believe that a group of terrorists would attack a billionaire genius with explosives, abduct him, save his life, keep him trapped in a cave until he finished making a dangerous weapon for them, give him a bunch of other powerful weapons to work with, then leave him to his own devices, trusting the captive, genius, inventor would not try anything fishy. Really? The terrorists could not have fathomed this as a possibility? Sure, they checked on him once or twice, but it was really obvious that the filmmakers used the terrorists’ incompetence as a convenient, lazy plot device.

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Pro: Tony Stark & Friends (+6pts)

Tony was such an entertaining character to watch. In contrast to most superhero movies I have seen, Tony was so interesting, because he was not purely good. He was a playboy, he was arrogant, he owned a weapons manufacturing company that made its wealth off of making deadly weapons, and he thought he was better than everyone else. The character had a heart somewhere deep, deep down, and Robert Downey Jr. did a great job of making the audience feel that, but he was a very flawed character, which made him interesting to follow on this journey. He threw out a ton of quips, which provided a lot of laughs, and he was a genius inventor with a super suit, which made him cool. It was a great character that most audiences will enjoy, but it was the character's relationships with Pepper and Happy that really fleshed the character out.

Tony was on paper, not a very likeable character. However, we saw Pepper and Happy—two totally reasonable and likeable characters—staying loyally at Tony's side, and forgiving him when he screwed up. This showed us that reasonable people saw beyond Tony's facade, which made it easier for us to do so, but the characters were also just entertaining. Pepper was not your typical superhero love interest. She saw all of Tony's flaws and she was not afraid to talk down to him and call him out on it. Then there was Happy, who was totally loyal to Tony, but their banter provided a lot of laughs throughout the movie. The result of all of this was a character that was both entertaining and interesting in the best way, and who audiences will enjoy watching.

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Con: The Superhero Formula (-3pts)

I liked that the filmmakers took a character we do not normally see in this type of story, and threw him in there, but the predictability of the superhero origin story still hurt this movie a little. We knew the main character would get superpowers—the suit in Tony's case—so I knew what would come out of the cave scenes, which went on a little longer than it should have, given everyone knew what would happen. We knew the main character would spend a bunch of scenes experimenting with his new powers—tinkering, improving, and testing his suit. We knew he would have to keep this part of his life secret, so no one would discover his superhero persona. We knew a villain would make themselves known, and we knew Tony would have to juggle keeping his identity a secret while also trying to stop the baddie.

By making Tony the protagonist of this story, the filmmakers were able to use his flaws and unorthodox personality to poke fun at the superhero genre. This made it interesting to watch because we were watching an unusual character in a familiar storyline. That being said, the major plot points of the movie were still pretty predictable, which meant that I always felt like I knew what was coming, and I was never worried about whether or not Tony would prevail. Although I did really enjoy how the filmmakers ended the movie, as they subverted expectations in a great cliff-hanger moment.

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Pro: Iron Man (+8pts)

Iron Man was a pretty cool superhero to see on the big screen. Like Batman, Iron Man used tech rather than superpowers to make himself a superhero. In Iron Man's case, Tony created a high-powered exosuit, capable of both flight and combat. It was fun to see Tony tinkering, trying to perfect the suit, and that tinkering also helped make the Iron Man suit feel realistic. Of course it is fiction, and of course such a suit is unrealistic, but watching him trying, failing, updating, and succeeding helped ground this story in the real world, and it made the suit feel realistic. Then he used the suit in action and it was just awesome.

We saw him flying around, we saw him use his blasters, we saw the firepower the suit had, and we even got the entertaining A.I. JARVIS helping Tony along the way. This was a really fun idea for a comic book hero, and I thought it worked really well on the screen. The suit also just looked great on screen. All of this came together, making Iron Man a great superhero to finally see on the big screen.

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Con: Obadiah Stane (-4pts)

There is really not much to say about this guy, other than that he was a pretty typical villain. While Iron Man was the hero and this was the movie that launched the now massive MCU, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) was the villain that launched the mold of MCU filmmakers making their villains one-dimensional, evil copies of their heroes. Obadiah Stane was an executive at Stark Industries who was evil, for the sake of being evil. He was greedy, power hungry, and he did evil things in order to get selfish outcomes. There was nothing interesting about this guy, and he set the precedent that the MCU would become known for—delivering antagonists that are underdeveloped, one-dimensional, evil copies of their protagonists.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (88pts)

There is a reason that this was the movie that launched the now blockbuster franchise known as the MCU. It was able to launch such a franchise, because it was a really good movie. Yes, the story here followed the predictable plot points of your typical superhero origin story, but it did so while focusing on an unorthodox character—at least an unorthodox character for a story such as this one—which allowed the filmmakers to play with the genre in an entertaining way. I really liked Tony Stark as a character, as he was funny, he was cool, his flaws made him interesting, and the casting of Robert Downey Jr. was simply perfect.

Iron Man was an awesome superhero to finally see on the big screen. The suits looked great, the action was awesome, and seeing Tony perfecting the suit helped ground the movie in a bit of realism. The movie had some lazy, convenient writing as the filmmakers were setting up how Tony became Iron Man through the terrorist attack and his capture, and Obadiah Stane was a one-dimensional, evil copy of the protagonist, which unfortunately set the precedent that the MCU would roll with for too many of their movies. That all being said, this was still a really good movie. It had humor, it had awesome action, it had interesting protagonists, it had a compelling story arc for the hero, and it was just a really good movie to kickoff a big movie franchise.

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