Profiting from warfare isn't the sole domain of weapons manufacturers. Even movie studios appear to be cashing in on the current worldwide conflicts. Set in a desert location in the Middle East, Iron Man belabors the hostilities and violence happening in that region before getting on with the story of the Marvel Comic hero. Sadly, the bloodshed is a sobering means of generating entertainment, even for a superhero film.
However, it is all used as background detail to introduce playboy billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). The young industrialist lives a charmed life as the heir of his father's arms industry. At 21, he steps in as head of the company following his parents' death. To his detriment, the new position gives him more access to fast women, easy money and a lavish lifestyle that doesn't do anything to improve his personality. For the most part, he is arrogant, self-centered and usually drinking.
But his perspective on life changes when he is captured by an Afghanistan rebel group while touting his latest invention to a group of commandos in the war zone. Hiding in the belly of a jeep, the missile manufacturer watches as a motorcade of soldiers is gunned down around him. Awakening from the attack, he finds himself imprisoned, bloody and facing the open barrel end of one of his own guns. Tortured by repeated water dunking, he is forced by his captors (Faran Tahir, Sayed Badreya) to develop land-launched rockets for their employ. Stalling for time, Tony and another hostage (Shaun Toub) dawdle at the project while building a metal suit outfitted with armaments that enables Tony to escape.
Finally back on home soil, Tony shocks stockholders and his partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) by declaring an end to his past business practices. Instead, with the help of his executive assistant (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a lab full of almost sentient software, he plans to perfect his protective body armor and fight the rebels who are killing their own people as well as American soldiers. Unfortunately it's not only investors who disagree with the corporation's new direction.
Luckily Tony's change of heart toward warfare and the emergence of his social conscious makes him a better man. But the film continues to overplay the violence level, pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating, although sex and language concerns are limited. And despite being dressed in the coolest, futuristic suit in town, Tony's reckless use of alcohol, his propensity to speed in his high-powered cars and his calloused treatment of women still makes Iron Man a dangerous role model for young comic book connoisseurs.