Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2008. Paramount Pictures, Marvel Enterprises, Marvel Studios, Fairview Entertainment, Dark Blades Films, Legion Entertainment. Screenplay by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby. Cinematography by Matthew Libatique. Produced by Avi Arad, Kevin Feige. Music by Ramin Djawadi. Production Design by J. Michael Riva. Costume Design by Rebecca Gregg, Laura Jean Shannon. Film Editing by Dan Lebental. Academy Awards 2008. American Film Institute 2008. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2008.
Weapons manufacturing tycoon Robert Downey Jr. is injured during a PR stunt in Afghanistan and ends up a hostage in a terrorist cell. A kindly fellow prisoner brings him back to health with a small adjustment: an electronic device attached to his body that keeps the bits of shrapnel still floating in his body away from his heart. Downey replaces the device with a piece of machinery that involves some very fancy (thankfully unexplained) super high-fi technology before building himself a giant iron suit that he uses to get himself out of his prison. When he arrives back home, he decides that he no longer wishes to create weapons that kill people, but it goes against the interests of his greedy business partner (Jeff Bridges), who just wants to keep things the way they are. This highly enjoyable action film takes a while to really warm up, but once it does it really takes off; the preamble isn’t boring, mind you; Downey’s charisma is all you need to keep an audience in its seat for two hours, but the story itself isn’t as fascinating as the steps that took Peter Parker to Spider-Man. Favreau thankfully avoids really delving into the political possibilities that this film about a weapons-obsessed, capitalistic world could get into, wisely letting the undertones remain subtle and focusing on the fun. He also goes a huge step forward of other films of this genre by casting multilayered actors to play superheroes, most delightfully including an adorable Gwyneth Paltrow as the hero’s assistant (and possible love interest). The visual effects are outstanding , though by this point, who is even impressed anymore? These movies have too much money to spend and no limitations on the possibilities.