WARNING: the final paragraph of this review contains spoilers.
Two words: kick ass. Iron Man has the wherewithal, edge, and “withitness,” to give it to viewers straight—without a chaser. It’s ballsy, unabashed, and gallant—fully-equipped to dazzle. Moreover, Iron Man dares to dance around other superhero flicks with its rock-n’-roll bullhorns raised. That’s right; Iron Man extends its gold-titanium alloy index and pinky fingers and thrusts to the top of the genre.
No joke, Iron Man is like a head-banging super summer concert with AC/DC’s “Back in Black” as the opener and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” as the encore. This motion-picture drives you to hook up Guitar Hero (or better yet Rock Band), put your right hand in the air, and rock out in celebration of this amped-up superhero adaptation. Manly men and comic-book nerds unite; a colossal Marvel franchise is on the rise.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is the wealthy C.E.O. of Stark Industries, a manufacturing firm of military weaponry. Stark loves to drink hard, womanize, and engineer electronics.
After presenting his latest weapon – the Jericho missile – to American soldiers in Afghanistan, Stark is taken captive by a group of terrorists called "The Order of the Ten Rings." Their leader, Raza (Fahan Tahir), orders Stark to build the Jericho for them. Once he is given ample supplies and a translator/assistant in Yinsen (Shaun Toub), Stark creates a heavily armored suit – powered by a miniature arc reactor – instead of constructing the Jericho and escapes from captivity.
Upon returning to the U.S., Stark calls for the shutdown of the company’s weapons manufacturing division and begins working on a project of his own. As Stark’s business contemporary Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) and the Stark Industries’ board question the C.E.O.’s redefining of their company’s output, Stark diligently works on enhancing his armored suit prototype. The finished product is gold and “hot-rod” red and serves as Stark’s exoskeleton in his fight against terrorism and effort to uphold justice.
Along side Stark is his secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and armed-forces liaison Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard). Yet, when Obadiah Stane decides to betray Stark and manufacture his own armored suit (Iron Monger), it is only Pepper who plays a key role in Iron Man’s survival. Rhodey opts to get in on the fun “next time.”
Iron Man’s most commanding aspect is Robert Downey Jr. His strength in overcoming the challenge of playing a billionaire prick, who is also a charismatic hero, is impressive. In doing so, Downey Jr. comes off as high-and-mighty and magnetic simultaneously. Additionally, he lives up to Stan Lee’s Howard Hughes inspiration, rocks his well-defined goatee, and plays the character with passion. Considering Downey Jr.’s genuine interest in the Iron Man comic-book character, one would like to think that his three-dimensional portrayal would certainly appease the two-dimensional Tony Stark.
Hand director Jon Favreau the credit for continually leaving viewers thirsty for the minutes that follow. However, the writers deserve the most merit for scripting an exemplar plot. Like the storyline of Batman Begins, Iron Man is more prequel than “quel” in depicting the origin of the superhero. Throughout Iron Man’s set-up, the screenplay establishes the characters and envelopes the viewers in the story. This allows for the last act to be reserved for the clashing of hero and villain. Wisely, Iron Man does not succumb to the often-seen (X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, etc.) temptation of pleasing genre fans by incorporating too many of their favorite characters (good and bad) and quickly moving to conflict.
In an effort to steer clear of conflict with fans of the series, Iron Man judiciously makes room for sequels. Iron Man poises Terrence Howard to assume the role of War Machine, leaves the terrorist sect (a mock version of Mandarin perhaps) primed for revenge, and only tickles the romance between Pepper and Tony. What’s more, if you sit through the credits to catch a clip that will make fans (new and old) “Fury”ous for more Iron Man, you’ll learn the path that the series is slated to follow. Also, be sure to look for Downey Jr.’s cameo as Tony Stark in the upcoming The Incredible Hulk.