Your enjoyment, or lack thereof, of 'Iron Man' will depend considerably on what you expect from it. If you go in anticipating a fun, thrill, action-packed, special effects Summer extravaganza, then knowing just one thing is sufficient - it is a better film overall than the two recent 'Fantastic Four' movies combined, which again, might not be saying much. If you like your superheroes dark and brooding, thoughtful and introspective, realistic yet laced in fantasy 'Iron Man' will come across as a dork and the film an excuse to construct something altogether meaningful out of a whole lot of banal dialogue and the many one-liners. My stand on the film is tied to my love of the original comics, from which it borrow the concepts, ideas, characters and situations but perhaps not the humanity or depth. Am I asking too much for superhero films to be more than just about fancy camera work or loud noises? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the film remains both review proof and hence somewhat appealing in its goofiness.
For those who may not know, Iron Man is actually industrialist Tony Stark. In the comics he is a smart, rich, lonely man, whose alter ego is an armored half-machine that relies on a mechanical heart to power its body, after an accident renders the organic heart useless. In the movie, Stark is all of those things and a shallow playboy 'War Profiteer' who initially designs an armour of metal to fight off the men who kidnap him while he is on a trip to test new weapons made by his company, Stark Industries, in Afghanistan (why the deserts of Arizona would not have been suitable for this purpose is never really explained). The movie does a formidable job in the opening scenes with two techniques - diving straight into the action and setting up Tony Stark as a larger than life person. Contrary to what many might say (or think), Downey Jr. plays Stark differently to his comic book persona by developing a brand of irreverence that never really allows the film to ever play it straight, even when it needs or wants to. Director Jon Favreau (who somehow finds himself appearing in nearly every scene of the first half) directs in a slick, polished style that lacks a unique approach, but compensates for this, in no small amount, but pumping things up when needed in the many battle scenes. The last fight is particularly well done in the way it evokes memories of Robocop and its sequel.
The structure and unfolding of the plot is similar to what better movies like "Spiderman" and "Batman Begins" have already established well. There are big name actors throughout the film surrounding the main star - Jeff Bridges as a mentor turned nemesis, Gwyneth Paltrow as the damsel providing the token spark of romance, Terrence Howard as reliable sidekick Jim Rhodes (who even casual readers of the comic will remember taking on a superhero presence of his own in the Marvel Universe, hinted at very strongly towards the end of "Iron Man"). But the film is never really able to establish a threat for its hero for the most part, without which the plot languishes in a grey zone of being an origin story about a character many will already be familiar with and who they want to see get into his suit and, well, just kick ass. The promise of what the film could have been is therefore never fully realised. 'Iron Man' could have been a more resonant film, rather than relegating itself to merely being entertaining, but for some, that should be worth the money, if not the wait. - Faizan Rashid