Iron Man

Posted on September 30, 2008 at 8:00 am

With its first self-financed production, Marvel has produced one of the best superhero movies ever made, pure popcorn pleasure for its special effects, its story, its villain, and its hero. Director Jon Favreau, star Robert Downey Jr. and a first-class screenplay mix electrifying action, a compelling drama, and top-notch performances. Plus there are the best robot-type characters since R2D2, C3PO, and Hewey, Dewey, and Louie.

Downey plays international weapons dealer/super-brain/playboy Tony Stark as a rock star. He is an industrialist who appears on the cover of Rolling Stone and dates cover girls. He has an answer for every possible question or criticism about the company he runs: “The day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace I’ll start building beams for baby hospitals.” But he does not have an answer for himself. His own conflicts would haunt him if he would slow down for a moment to think about them. That moment comes when he is captured by jihadists on a sales tour of American armed forces in the Mideast, using his own weapons. Told to recreate his company’s most powerful weapon for them instead he creates something for himself. The mastermind of cutting edge technology reaches back to the oldest of old school combat and creates for himself a high-tech suit of armor so that he can escape. It becomes the first stage in what will transform him into Iron Man. And the more he is protected by his Iron Man suit, the more he begins to open up to himself and others about who he really is and take responsibility for the world he has helped to create.

Downey superbly conveys Stark’s vulnerability and brilliance. He makes every line of dialogue feel improvised and natural, a great counter to the over-the-top special effects and fight scenes. In this middle of this great big movie he gives a subtle performance that is every bit as compelling as the most jam-packed action footage. He evolves as the suit does, trying out new things, coming alive for the first time as he is encased in metal.

The themes of the story has some powerful resonance about America’s role in the world without being heavy-handed. There’s no time for it — everything moves quickly as Stark continues to develop his suit and is attacked by bad guys and good guys and, well, there’s another category I am not going to give away. There is strong support from Terrence Howard as Stark’s military contact and friend, Gwenyth Paltrow, who gives some snap to her role as the indispensable aide de camp, and Jeff Bridges (with his head shaved!) as Stark’s closest business associate. The visuals are bracing and powerful and the action scenes are fanboy heaven. Watch for quick cameos from director Favreau, fan Ghostface Killah, and Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee. But don’t get distracted. Downey is the literal heart of this movie, and like the appliance that keeps Stark alive, he is a power source whose potential seems limitless.

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Fantasy

35 Replies to “Iron Man”

  1. Movie Mom, you use the term “sexual situation” (explicit or non) a lot when you write reviews. What exactly does this mean? Can you give an example?

  2. hey allison…if you have to ask what a sexual situation is, then you’re too young to know…:)

  3. Robert Downey is a gifted and hard working actor who I hope stays on a healthier path than he had been on during his years of self-abuse via substances. I’d highly recommend “Chaplin” as one of the greatest performances ever by an actor, especially since he played the lead role before his recent years of brain pollution caused by harder drug use which visibly altered his acting ability. I wish him continued sobriety. His talents are made for movies.

  4. Too bad you didn’t answer the above question. I’m a 42-year-old mom that would like to know precisely what you mean when you say sexual situation. Are we talking innuendo? Body part references? Please answer the question without being cute. Thanks.

  5. Our neighbor saw the movie and said the scene included a guy jumping in bed with a very nice looking women….they then move along to another part of the movie. So, the scene “suggests” they did something.
    I am concerned with the explicit language….what words were used?

  6. I saw this movie last night. Profanity was not a concern. Spoilers of the sexual situation follow.
    The sexual situation being referred to occurs in the beginning of the movie. The protagonist, Tony Stark, is a a rich playboy- kind of an edgier Bruce Wayne. He propositions a female reporter.
    Reporter: “Do you lose even an hour of sleep at night?” (referring to the weapons this man’s company produces).
    Stark: I’d be willing to lose a few hours of sleep with you.
    Cut to Tony Stark’s opulent oceanfront Malibu home. Stark and reporter are laying on a large bed, desperately kissing / embracing and fumbling with clothes. Fade out…
    Cut to reporter waking alone on bed, sprawled and naked but covered so that no sensitive areas are visible. She is then handled by Stark’s female assistant, Pepper, who subtly refers to the woman as trash (perhaps out of jealousy given the underlying relationship pretext between Stark and Pepper). It becomes clear that Stark has no actual interest in the reporter beyond one night’s sex, and is also made clear that this is a pattern for him. There are references in the film to his many conquests, although most of these references will go over the heads of most children, i.e., “He scored with the last 12 month’s covers of Maxim.”
    I would also recommend preparation of children for the violence in the film. We have been inured to that, and as a culture we seem much more accepting of seeing innocents get murdered and graphic death/torture than we are of scene with sex. I would suggest stressing the fictional nature of the violence, discussing that the blood is fake, that everyone in the movie is a paid actor, etc.

  7. I took my 6-year-old daughter to see this film on the weekend. She was not frightened at all, the sexual situation is nothing more explicit than anything I have seen on television, certainly no more racy than afternoon soaps, no graphic death, and suprisingly little blood, given the subject matter. As the credits came up she asked if we could buy it on DVD.

  8. Thanks to all for your comments!
    I prefer to kids-in-mind — it is a much more comprehensive and, I think more principled description of the specifics on sex, violence, language, etc. For those who want to know more about what I mean by “sexual situations” or “non-explicit sexual situations” it means no nudity or movement indicating sex but an implication that sex has happened or is about to happen. “Explicit” means sexual movements, touching, etc. “Sexual references” are, as in this film, when a character is asked if it is true that he had sex with all 12 Maxim centerfolds, or in “Made of Honor” when specific sex acts are enumerated in a pre-nuptial contract. I also try to indicate whether there is brief or extensive bad language and whether it includes racial or sexist or homophobic epithets. And I am always happy to answer questions by email or on comments.

  9. We attempted to take our 5 and 8 year old sons to see this movie over the weekend, and ended up walking out 20 minutes into it. I usually DO NOT allow my kids to see movies that are rated PG-13. However, given the hype of this one, and the fact that they had already collected some action figures from their Burger King kids meal, I decided to throw caution to the wind and let them see it. IT WAS AWEFUL!! For the 20 minutes we were there, they saw violent war scenes, a sex scene (o.k. -so there was no nudity…), torture, gambling, drinking, amoung other inappropriate things. It was violent, scary and somewhat sadistic. My kids actually left the theater WILLINGLY!!! I think that movies that are rated PG-13 and above should NOT be marketed toward kids. I can not believe that anyone would think that this movie was O.k. for kids to watch!

  10. In defense of the movie, I will say that the first half hour is the more intense part of the film with regard to the concerns you have. I agree with you Rachelle that the torture and sadism of the antagonists is not appropriate for small children. I would allow my 12-year-old to see this – with significant prep and discussion – but not my younger kids.

  11. Rachelle said;
    “… My kids actually left the theater WILLINGLY!!! I think that movies that are rated PG-13 and above should NOT be marketed toward kids.”
    Not for nothing but a PG-13 movie is not marketed towards kids…it’s marketed towards adults. The PG-13 is simply a guide for adults with children under 13. Last time I looked PG-13 meant some scenes may not be suitable for children under the age of 13..which by the way, with kids at 8 and 9 years of age, really should have been your first clue about the fact that it would not be appropriate for your children.
    What you are mad about is the fact that Happy Meals are toting Iron Man toys and other merchandise to your kid. Yeah, while I agree that this may cause a parent some aggravation when their kid wants to go see the movie, but whatever, I’m sure kids ask for all sorts of things you won’t be saying yes too anytime soon and this movie should just be one of those things, if you think your kid is too young.
    It may not seem like it but complaining about the marketing to the kids is at it’s heart a cop out. You’re really saying you wish they wouldn’t make these movies for adults that children will also want to see and shouldn’t…which is akin to saying you don’t want the responsibility of having to police and an enforce the guidelines you feel your kid should be operating under. It’s far easier & convenient to say screw your super-hero movie than it is to guide and steer your kid through or around sensitive issues.
    Sorry but thats the way I see it. Lots in things in life would be easier if so and so would just do xyz…but they don’t and it isn’t.

  12. I am taking my God babies to go see this movie tommrow. They are 7/8 and they have seen all spider man movies (rated pg-13), Tranformers (pg_13). From what I here is nothing diffrent then what kids see everyday on tv, videos, movies, school, radio, etc.. We have to educate our children on what is real, not real, fact, fiction. Kids are exposed to violence in cartoons, Lion King, Monsters Inc, Phocahontes, Over the Headge, Sharks Tale, etc. I don’t think it is sadistic when the movie is over and done with we have to teach them. Yes violence in the beginning is no different then what the news reports on Iraq. In the end of the day what matters who Wins good or Evil. What is the story behind the good?

  13. Celeste, I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts but I disagree with your reasoning. I am all for allowing parents to apply the recommended age ranges as applicable to the individual tolerances and preferences of each child and their own standards but you say nothing about the interests and comfort zones of these children, only that you think that the violence in the movie has some relationship to (a) “reality” and (b) other things they have seen. I believe you are wrong about both.
    When I was writing my book I interviewed many young adults and was astonished to find that every one of them said they wished their parents had been more protective, not less. Every one of them felt abused by exposure to particular movies and every one of them told me the specifics of which film or films they felt they should not have been allowed to see. Those whose parents or other trusted adults took them to the films felt more betrayed than those who saw them without parental approval. Children will tell you what you want to hear and may fear your disapproval if they say they are not comfortable seeing a movie you want to take them to. Years from now, they will still remember, however, that they wished you had read their minds. Children can recite “It’s just pretend” until the cows come home but that does not mean that developmentally they fully appreciate what is fantasy and what is real until they are close to middle school.
    There are many different kinds of violence. Context and level of explicitness matter tremendously in the way they are received by children. Even if it did, would you say that an 8-year-old should see explicit footage of war? I would not. I think you should be more careful in considering whether this movie is really right for these children.

  14. I just returned from taking my 7 and 9 year old boys to see Iron Man. We left after 20 minutes. My 7 year old complained of a stomache ache and after a trip to the bathroom I got it out of him that it was really the movie that scared him. I asked my 9 year old if he wanted to finish the rest of the movie (while we waited in the lobby) and he came out after 10 more minutes. I researched this film online before I took my kids because I worried it might be a too much for them. But the reviews made is sound more like the Spiderman and Transformers movies and my boys friends said they saw it and loved it. There was quite a bit more violence, gore and scary situations than I anticipated and I’ll admit I was uncomfortable with them watching. I think my boys were relieved when we left the theater. Unfortunately, I think this film is being marketed as a “super hero” movie and there will be many parents who will be surprised once the movie starts.

  15. I really appreciate your comments, Chris. As you can see from my review, I recommended this movie for middle schoolers and older. I’m glad you agree with my assessment that it is too intense for 9-10 year olds and my concern about the way it has been marketed to younger kids.

  16. My husband wanted to take my 10 year old to this movie and so I checked this site 1st and to me the review seemed to give it a green light. Fortunately my son declined and my husband and I wound up seeing it together. Our 1st comment to each other when leaving the theater was, “We need to find a more conservative parental review website!”. for example: the review says there is a “non-explicit” suggestive scene in this movie – what I saw during the 1st 10 minutes is was a full – on sex scene: casual sex, that is. Just wanted to post this to warn other parents, and to say that Movie Mom must be sitting through too much of this garbage and become desensitized. Age is not a factor; I would not let ANY minor child of mine watch that movie. It would certainly not be appropriate for Jr. High.

  17. Profanity? indicates that this movie has one “f-word”. Is that accurate?

  18. Janet, you can assume that most PG-13 movies have one f-word. The ratings are very formulaic and the studios know that one f-word will guarantee a PG-13, which they consider to be the most marketable rating.
    In my descriptions, I do my best to indicate the level of bad language, whether it is pervasive or brief and whether it includes anything beyond the usual s- and f-words, as with racial epithets.

  19. Thanks for posting, Karen — this is just the kind of conversation I hope to have on this site. The sexual content of the scene you mention is less than in many PG-13 standards (no nudity, no depiction of sexual contact or movement, which is what I consider explicit or “full-on” sex) and by the standards of broadcast television. As my review noted, I do not recommend the film for 10-year olds. “Middle School” means 7-8th graders. If you want a fuller description of the content of films, you may wish to check, maintained by my good friend Jim Judy. And I always welcome questions either via comment or by email at

  20. Xander:
    Responsible parenting would mean looking up reviews and such, and listening to what other people say in regards to PG-13 movies they have let their kids watch. Willingly or not my children would have left the theater. My point is, if they were scared, then obviously it is TOO MUCH for an 8 and 5 year old. MANY people have reviewed this movie saying that “it is nothing more than what would be seen on TV”, that is a “cop-out”, or a justification for doing what they want with their kids. People these days do that a lot. Live and learn. I have NO problem saying no to my kids when needed.
    In regards to the happy meal thing….these toys should not be marketed towards kids. Period. There is no justification in that besides for movie companies to make more money. If they are not recommending the movie for kids….then why should they be allowed to push it on them???
    Kudos to Chris, you did the responsible thing.

  21. I cannot believe the movies that some people will let their children see. Nell, I think your comments are exactly right about kids feeling “abused” by what they’ve seen in movies. My just-16-yo wanted to see “Made of Honor”, which seemed from previews to be a romantic comedy, right? Wrong. After reading the reviews, including the one on this site, I realized it’s a trashy piece of junk. I didn’t let her see it. Why should she have her eyes and mind and imagination filled with such garbage?
    We’re all so concerned about environmental pollution… everything has to be pure and green for Gaia, the pagan Mother Earth Goddess … but what about the purity of our children? Why is it that parents will pay big bucks to take their innocent kids to see filth? And then we wonder why our kids are alienated, depressed, and unable to form close relationships. I suggest that the kind of junk we’ve been pumping into their brains since childhood is a big part of it.
    Sorry, ranting a big here, but it really drives me crazy.
    Oh, and the best part about the fact that I wouldn’t let my daughter see the trashy movie? Her friend said, “Oh, no problem! Let’s see a different movie!’ and they all went to see “Horton Hears a Who”! They had just as much fun, I’m sure, without embarrassment or mind pollution. This weekend, thank goodness, there’s Narnia, and possibly Iron Man. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a wasteland, which is a shame.

  22. I am a mom who loves many movies, but i am nervous about iron man because i don’t think that children should be seeing movies that involve dating and violence. Because it would encourage these things like violence and teen “stuff”. Cara loves ryan a lot!!

  23. Cara, if you have concerns about violence and sexual content, you should not let your kids see “Iron Man.” The main character has a reputation for one-night stands (and we briefly see the aftermath of one) and of course there is a great deal of action-style violence throughout.

  24. If you are a parent thinking about having your small children see this movie…then you should know that the “brief sexual content” that the reivew notes is the fact that they show strippers on a plane dancing around a pole (yes with their clothes on if you call mini skirts and unbuttoned half shirts clothes) and also Robert Downey Jr. rolling around on a bed with a half naked woman (bare backed) after just meeting her moments before. I wish I had more specific descriptions of the “brief sexual content” before taking my 7 year old daughter and 12 year old son to this movie. Needless to say we walked out and got our money back. I guess we missed out on a “good” movie if I listen to my friends opinions and my son was disapointed but if the point I made by leaving the movie and the discussion following with my children made the point to them that watching women being portrayed as sexual objects is wrong then it was worth us missing!

  25. Thanks very much, Amy — I wish more parents would have the courage to walk out when they find they have made a mistake. I could not agree more that the lesson you taught them was an essential one, not just about the treatment of women but about your commitment to their well-being and your willingness to stand up for your values.
    There are almost no PG-13 movies that I would recommend for anyone under age 13 or 14, and as you can see in my review I suggested this one for middle school and up. While there is less sexual content in this film than in many PG-13s, I agree with you that it is not suitable for younger children.

  26. If the violence in this movie do not qualify it for an R rating, what does it take? Stomping and kicking a helpless man. Shooting dozens of unarmed people – okay, it was offscreen, but we hear the gunshots and the man who ordered them shot taking no thought that many people are about to die.
    And the evil quotient – Jeff Bridges is off the chart EVIL.
    This movie is not for children of any age. My wife and I walked out, and we should have done it sooner.

  27. I have to agree with you, Gary. It seems like they’ve really let the ratings slip a notch this year.
    I thought the violence in Iron Man, especially in the first 40 minutes, far exceeded past PG-13 super hero movies. It really deserved an R rating.
    And there was no warning from the “mainstream” movie reviews or the trailers.
    I don’t think we’ll be taking our son to any more PG-13 movies.

  28. Glenn and Gary, it is well-documented that the ratings have slipped many, many notches. A study showed what those of us who see several movies each week have already noticed — that what got an R a few years ago now gets a PG-13 and what used to get a PG-13 now gets a PG. This is reflected in (and influenced by) what is shown on broadcast television during prime time. Shows like “CSI” and “Two and a Half Men” would have received R ratings just a few years ago if they had been rated by the MPAA. But because they are on broadcast television, the MPAA figures they must be appropriate for 12-year-olds. “Iron Man” was not nearly as graphic as “The Dark Knight” — also rated PG-13.
    I try to make it clear what is in each movie so that parents can have the information they need to decide whether a movie is appropriate for their families, and I appreciate those commenters who add their views and experiences. Thanks so much and I hope you will continue to let us know what you think about the movies you see.

  29. This is probably the best superhero movie made by marvel, I must agree with you. It has the action, the comedy, and its sad moments. It keeps you interested throughout the story. Be aware though there is the violence, it has guns and beating up people. If you are deciding wether or not to let your 10 year old watch it, maybe not such a good idea. We all know kids pick up on everything they watch, and this has many things to pick up on. It also has its amount of sexual content. It is sad producers have to put these things in movies, but hey who is going to watch them if they aren’t pg-13? That is their thinking. But i still have to say it is a great movie.

  30. Agreed on all points, Aly! Thanks for a great comment and please return to let me know what you think of the other movies you see.

  31. Neil, on yahoo movie mom, you used to provided your opinion on the age that you thought kids could view a movie which was very helpful and usually was “right on the ball” in our opinion (regardless of what the MPAA says). I find that the MPAA rating is pretty useless and simply gives a general guideline.

  32. Nice to hear from you, Jacquie! My age recommendations are included next to “audience” in the top of each review. If you can’t find it, let me know.

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