Like the wise one says, “Necessity is the mother of invention” and Tony Stark’s mother birthed the crude chrysalis of Iron Man in a cave in Afghanistan. While demonstrating the Jericho Missile, spoiled, womanizing, arrogant weapons manufacturer and brilliant engineer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by the Ten Rings terrorist group led by Raza (Faran Tahir). Luckily, he is held captive with a doctor, Yinsen (Shaun Toub), who manages to save him from death by attaching a device to his chest and together they manage to escape alive. Instead of recreating the missile for the terrorists, Tony develops the beginnings of what will become Iron Man, both emotionally and mechanically.
To the chagrin of many, the film isn’t a huge modernized Rock-em Sock-em Robots revision, nor is it a strict superhero movie – it deals with the very beginning of the Iron Man legacy – so it is more along the lines of a personal development story. Tony begins as a self absorbed, uncaring, skirt chasing billionaire dilettante with no regard for the consequences of how his money is made. By the end he is a self absorbed, skirt chasing billionaire dilettante who cares about the people around him, where his money comes from and what people do with his weapons. This is not to say that the movie doesn’t pack a punch though.
Iron Man is studded with easily recognizable names camping it up for the story. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Tony Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts. She runs around in four inch heels, maternally tending to Tony’s needs. Her dialogue is fun but a little grating at times because she is as deep as a teaspoon. Terrence Howard plays Jim Rhodes, Tony’s friend in the Air Force. He puffs his chest in ways that would make a Marine commercial blush. Jeff Bridges is Obadiah Stane, Stark’s assistant who yearns for the limelight – praising his boss while secretly plotting his destruction. He gives new meaning to what a backstabbing, bitter employee is.
The scenes where Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man are exhilarating. I found myself clapping for flame throwers; how often do you get to do that in real life? I was fond especially of the learning scenes where Tony was trying to perfect his suit of armor. Speaking of the suit, the computer generation of it is flawless. I did not have to set aside belief because the light was wrong or the shine was too perfect. The only problem I had with it was the inside of the mask, which seems like it is the size of a space suit when the camera looks in it at Tony. If one was to judge the size of the entire ensemble as it relates to the space in the mask, one would think it was designed for a couples naked high-altitude romp.
There is also no shortage of scenes meant to make you laugh (although many of them add nearly nothing to the plot of the movie), including a more memorable one with stripper flight attendants. The scenes meant to evoke laughter sometimes force the audience into an uncomfortable giggle, like a chuckle one might give their unfunny uncle. It isn’t all middle aged relatives; some of the laughter was well earned. His machines are fun, his mistakes are entertaining and his arrogance earned more than a few well deserved smiles.
For me, I found Iron Man enjoyable but, unfortunately, my socks remained firmly on my feet. It’s a good start to what I suspect will have many more installments, but it lacks the lift off to be a classic super hero movie.