By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
With hard-hitting action, unsentimental morality, and a fantastic dry wit (courtesy of a great script and Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent delivery), Iron Man is the perfect film to open the summer. Which isn't to say it's a ‘perfect film', but its so much fun you won't care. **** (out of five). PG-13 (bloodless but intense action violence, a five-second makeout/sex scene).
The Full Scoop
The best superhero movies all have three things: a solid script, iconic characters, and great actors. Iron Man (rent or buy it here) is well-stocked for the latter. We're talking Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff freaking Bridges! The script is also quite good; it's your standard superhero origin story, but it has more than enough originality (both in its morality and in its snappy dialogue) to give it a boost. And while Iron Man isn't the iconic character that Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man are, this movie just might make him so.
Directed by John Favreau (who brought a brilliant sense of humor to Elf), Iron Man is set above most superhero films because of it's wit and Robert Downey Jr.'s too-cool performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Yes, it has awesome effects and some delightfully hard-hitting action, but this is really Robert Downey Jr.'s show. Like Christian Bale, Tobey McGuire, and Johnny Depp before him, this is a decorated actor, well-respected by film-buffs, who is about to become a household superstar thanks to a popcorn movie.
His Tony Stark makes the transformation from selfish, hedonistic playboy to moral crusader without losing his coolness or sardonic charm. Like Batman, Iron Man is a self-made superhero, a wealthy mortal with smarts and means but no powers to speak of. And while Batman Begins still holds the title for Best Superhero Movie Ever Made, I dare say that Tony Stark has more fun creating his alter-ego than Bruce Wayne did.
What more can be said about this film than has been said by the nation's critics, who've contributed to its unheard-of 94% approval rating on rottentomatoes.com!?! Obviously, you must see the film. The supporting cast is underused, but well-acted, and I cannot wait to see what they do in the next film (Gwyneth Paltrow, in particular, has fun here, and her chemistry with Downey Jr. is a kick). The action is absolutely rocking. The film's attitude is infectious, its humor: spot-on. But I do wish to emphasize that, despite its critical acclaim, it remains a very good film, but not a truly great one.
It lacks the pacing of a Batman Begins, the menace of an X2: X-Men United. The film drags a tiny bit, and while the final action climax is thrilling, it doesn't carry enough emotional weight to feel like anything more than an effects extravaganza (in contrast, an earlier action piece of Iron Man's first real mission is an absolute knockout). Don't get me wrong, there's a place for that sort of “boom-smash entertainment” and it works just fine here.
I'm not knocking the film, I'm just saying that now that Iron Man's origin is out of the way, I look forward to a second film where the villain-hero conflict has a whole movie to build some steam. Quibbles aside, Iron Man has more than enough charm, thrills, and emotional gravitas to be the can't miss film of the summer. At least until Indy and Batman pop up.
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Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.