Iron Man
Leslie will tell you – he’s not Iron Man just because of the cybernetic armor.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/02/2008
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Leslie Bibb

Marvel has launched its first salvo into the blockbuster season (which seems to start earlier and earlier each year) with Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” and the world can now see what all the hype has been about. Sadly, it’s not much.

Now, before any fanboys go jumping off roofs or trying to compose a comment all in caps, hear me out. It’s not that there’s anything too wrong with the film (and of course, there’s the requisite Stan Lee cameo). But the entire thing feels like a setup to get to the next film where there will be much cooler things.

Sure, we need to see the origin of the superhero (and the man in the suit) if the franchise is to get going. To that end, Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect fit for the role of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark. Let’s see, he’s privileged, alcoholic and likes the ladies. Check, check and check. His take on the role was very likable and helped keep the film afloat during the many expositional scenes.

Speaking of which, I will give kudos to Favreau, the 4 credited writers (and who knows how many others) and the rest of the film-making team for getting his origin mostly right. However, the genesis of the character probably shouldn’t take the first 75% of the film.

Let me just clear this up right now. There are two … count them, TWO fights. Three if you count when Tony Stark builds the first suit in a cave to escape armed captors. (Though I appreciate him building it “A-Team” style out of scraps and sweat.) And they’re not even great fights, the scenes of Stark developing the suit and testing it out were more entertaining than 90% of any of the “action”.

That’s just not enough action to really get me going – and I am a comic book fan. I may have stopped collecting many years ago, but I have a soft spot for many of the characters being slapped onto theater screens and honestly want them to be good. And while I will readily admit that the suit looked awesome, the effects were done quite well and I appreciated the hint of all that the suit can do … it just wasn’t enough. Heck, the big boss fight at the end is about as thrilling as driving at high speed with my mother (though she is Asian so it can be quite dangerous).

Not helping things is Gwyneth Paltrow. While I don’t fault her as an actress, the romantic subplot for the film feels wedged in there just to appeal to the demographic doubling up on X chromosomes. I know I’m speaking from an immature male perspective, but what I want is an alcoholic in a suit of armor kicking tail from here to the moon. Call me crazy (no don’t, I’m sensitive about those sorts of things).

Jeff Bridges fills the role of villain here and it went so-so. He did a nice enough job of being a prick but there really wasn’t much for him to do. He got to be over-the-top towards the end which is fun, reminiscent of Willem Dafoe in “Spider-Man” … though really, there aren’t many roles that over the top that aren’t played by Jeremy Irons. That thought sparks the idea that maybe he should have been cast instead, especially since the look of the character was him anyway. It really looked like the make-up department was given these notes about how to work up Jeff Bridges: 1. Bald 2. Beard 3. Jeremy Irons.

But really, are any of these negative comments going to keep you from watching this if you had been wanting to? I doubt it. Films like these are critic-proof. I said it about “Spider-Man 3” and I’ll say it again: “I could say this was the most worthless piece of crap ever made and I doubt anyone reading this who’s a fan of the series would actually abstain from heading to the theater anyway.”

How awesome is that? I just quoted myself! Fine, be that way.

On the positive side, I will give Favreau credit for getting the look of the “Iron Man” franchise down. Whether it was the suit, the three-dimensional schematics, Tony Stark’s home or the cars (lots of Audi marketing going on), it all looked great. Not to mention Leslie Bibb was looking perhaps as amazing as she has ever looked … and that’s saying something (call me).

So, while I’m sure you might not take a critic’s word for how average this film is, take this to heart: At the end of the screening, when you’d expect the fanboys to whoop it up, there was … some polite applause. Even the kids in the row next to me were fidgeting from about the half-way point on and that was only partially due to their small, child bladders.

I enjoyed the film well enough but it was nothing that made me stop and stare in awe (aside from Leslie Bibb). I’m giving “Iron Man” a 3 out of 5. It’s okay and not necessarily a waste of your time or money. I just wish that they didn’t count on the sequel to be the place to stick all the great action because this one could have used a bit more. But what do you care? You’ve probably already bought your tickets online and are only reading this to keep up your reading level (though if that’s true, you may need to take a learning annex course).

Extra Rant: Apparently the “extra” scene that appears after the end credits was left off of the screening prints shown to critics and advance audiences. I realize no one can see it right now (or can they?) but rest assured that I’m extending my middle finger to the suits who decided to do that one just to make sure there was a little extra bonus for those who actually pay to see it. This only solidifies my conviction in giving this a 3 out of 5 and realizing just how much this first film in the franchise was nothing more than a tease for a second film with better action and more of what the hardcore demographic wants out of this series.