With all the things “Iron Man” does well, it’s a shame (and a wonder) that it isn’t a better film.  Even with a great performance by Robert
Downey Jr. and solid direction by John Favreau, “Iron Man” is a film that adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

If there is one area that truly shines, however, it’s Iron Man himself.  Downey Jr. brings world renowned weapons designer Tony Stark to life
with an offbeat and energetic performance that elevates the entire film.  As something of an arrogant ass, it’s a true credit to Downey Jr.
and the screenplay that this character is so likable.

There are also good performances by the supporting cast, including Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow.

But despite all this talent and the occasional snappy bit of dialog, “Iron Man” fails to really take flight.  The main reason is that the entire
affair feels too much like every other superhero film out there.  And this is a limiting factor that the movie never quite overcomes.  The
standard superhero conventions are so rigidly followed that there is never any question of what is about to happen.

This could certainly be overlooked, but other than Downey Jr., no other aspect of the film really picks up the slack.  Director Favreau
certainly doesn’t drop the ball in any way, but his action sequences fail to thrill.  While the visual effects are impressive, the set pieces just
aren’t all that exciting.

It doesn’t help that these are accompanied by some of the most generic and boring action music ever put to film courtesy of composer
Ramin Djawadi.

Favreau does deserve credit for finding ways of including Downey Jr. in these sequences despite being behind a mask.  How did he fit that
camera inside the helmet?  (Yes, that’s a joke)

And while all this may sound overly harsh, it is.  Despite all these flaws, “Iron Man” is an enjoyable film.  But it’s also a film that doesn’t fulfill
its potential.  There are some truly funny moments courtesy of Downey Jr., but other than these, “Iron Man” is just too by the numbers in its
setup and its execution.

* * 1/2
(out of four)
Directed by: Jon Favreau

Written by: Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum
& Matt Holloway

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff
Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow

Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique

Music by: Ramin Djawadi

Released: May 2, 2008; 126 Minutes