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Beyond Chaos's Movie Reviews (15)

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Iron Man (2008) 
Is it better to be feared or respected?
2.5/4 stars

Iron Man accomplishes what I heretofore thought was impossible: it makes the first act of the hero's origin story (before he attains his powers) the most enjoyable part of a comic book movie.

Tony Stark is a guiltless hedonist living the ultimate playboy lifestyle with narcissistic charm and dexterity. As a rich weapons manufacturer, he indulges in high technology, gleefully treats objects like women (a Big Lebowski reference for you Jeff Bridges fans) and flies in a private jet packed with strippers and booze.

As 'Back In Black' blares on a stereo system, he boasts of his company's latest devastating firepower available for sale to the U.S. military. It is at this time that a group of Afghani terrorists obliterate his convoy and take the fatally wounded Stark hostage. It seems he is needed to build a missile for them; the twist being that it is a weapon he himself designed.

The only way his heart can be kept beating is by keeping it connected to a crude battery unit. In a terrifically suspenseful sequence, Stark stalls for time so he can build an iron suit capable of protecting him from bullets and explosions while he wipes out his captors.

Upon returning to L.A. (in an unlikely rescue), Stark decides to stop developing weapons and live a nobler lifestyle (which is no fun). However, Jeff Bridges (the requisite confidant-turned-archenemy) has other ideas and battles against Stark's newfound idealism while secretly creating his own goliath suit; presumably because all bad guys in these movies crave Ultimate Power.

Robert Downey Jr. is the producers' ace-in-the-hole. Without him this would be just another mediocre entry in the long line of cookie-cutter Marvel films. His performance hits you like a shot of pure oxygen. He is the slick, supercool badass with snappy one-liners we all wish we could be. Even when the plot falls apart, Downey's mere presence makes the onscreen nonsense bearable (and, at times, hardly noticeable).

The rest of the bland cast isn't worth mentioning. After Stark constructs his true Iron Man suit and the obvious reveal of Jeff Bridges as the villain, there's nowhere left to go except the inevitable showdown. Or so the screenwriters have surmised. The remainder of Iron Man's running time is a tedious, disappointing affair.

My personal preference would have been for Stark to simply fight terrorism across the globe without the stale conflict of Jeff Bridges' character (especially because Bridges' dialogue eventually becomes cartoonishly rotten, even for this type of movie). There's a scene where this happens and it's the last time Iron Man provides a refreshing antidote to the typical mundane style of storytelling prevalent in Marvel's blockbuster features.

At least the audience can rightfully expect a better sequel from the brave, abrupt surprise ending.


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