IRON MAN A film review by Steve Rhodes Copyright 2008 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): ** 1/2
As popcorn flicks go, IRON MAN has enough action and goofy moments to mostly keep your attention throughout its bloated two hour plus running time. (There is probably a sizzling ninety-minute movie buried within its one-hundred-and-twenty-six minutes.) But its thin script suggests that the movie is more interested in setting up a franchise than entertaining us, which it does do sporadically.
Don't get me wrong. When the movie clicks, which isn't nearly often enough, you'll have a good time. The best moments in the picture are the silliest, as when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) fails spectacularly in perfecting his Iron Man suit, which is a wearable killing machine.
The film's central premise is based on a heavy-handed political message that is ridiculous and inconsistent. Hollywood has been churning out anti-war movies with reckless abandon for the past several years, while audiences have been avoiding them like the plague.
In IRON MAN, Hollywood attempts to sneak its anti-war sentiments into an action film. Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy who has made his riches off of his armaments company, decides that war and the weapons of war are immoral. So, he orders his company to stop building them, which are their only products. What does he do then? He wages a one-man war with his own personal weapon of mass destruction. So, the message becomes -- I guess -- that wars and weapons are okay so long as the wager of the wars is a superhero and not our military.
But I digress. Most people, predominately teens and young adults, going to see IRON MAN just want to know if Iron Man is going to blow up a lot of stuff. Trust me -- the body count will be high and the explosions will be loud enough to shake the walls of the theater. Get a big bag of popcorn and be ready for plenty of death and destruction. You won't be disappointed in that regard.
When we first meet Tony, he has temporarily left his buxom playmates behind so that he can venture to Afghanistan in order to demonstrate his latest innovation in firepower to some military brass. Along the way he quotes his father, who firmly believed that "Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy."
After being captured by the enemy, Tony converts to a peacenik but one with a really lethal weapon in the form of an invincible iron suit -- it's actually titanium, but it looks like iron. What causes Tony's conversion? He finds out that his weapons have the potential for inflicting collateral damage. His faux-sentiment will undoubtedly remind you of Claude Rains's character in Casablanca, when he said "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
But in no time, Tony is back alone in his private laboratory in California, aided only by his personal secretary, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Pepper books the charitable events that he rarely attends and does icky things like reaching into Tony's chest in order to insert a new device to protect his heart from the shrapnel in his body.
We then hear more about how troubled the wealthy Tony is. With no family and friends, save possibly Pepper, he is said to be "a man who has everything and nothing." Don't worry about him too much, since he'll eventually be earning everyone's accolades as he takes on the bad guys. Most of this part of the story, however, is conveniently left for the next episodes in what I'm sure the studio is hoping will be a long running franchise. This film ends in a single and very predictable fight. I'm sure that IRON MAN 2 will juice up the villain count and concentrate even less on the minimal storyline.
IRON MAN runs way too long at 2:06. It is rated PG-13 for "some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content" and would be acceptable for kids around 7 and up.
The film is playing in nationwide release now in the United States. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC theaters, the Century theaters and the Camera Cinemas.
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