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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Iron Man is a fast-paced, action-packed comic book-based adventure that kids may be clamoring to see. But it's definitely more age-appropriate for teens than younger children. Although much of the violence is clearly meant to be based in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy -- and/or is shown at a distance -- there's plenty of it, from massive explosions to children held at gunpoint to super-powered fistfights. Some of the violence is war themed, and some characters get hurt and/or die. While much is made of lead character Tony Stark's devil-may-care lifestyle of fun and frolic, viewers also see him turn away from the more irresponsible aspects of playboyhood. Language is minimal, and sexual content is more suggested than shown overall -- though there are a few eyebrow-raising moments.
What's the story?
Bringing another Marvel Comics hero to the big screen, IRON MAN begins as brilliant billionaire industrialist/inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is abducted during a weapons demonstration tour in Afghanistan. Grievously wounded by the very weapons his company manufactures, Stark is forced by his terrorist captors to build a missile; instead, he designs a high-tech suit of armor to make his escape. Returning to America, he wonders how the bad guys got hold of his company's products and vows to set things right with the help of a rebuilt, stylish new iteration of the powered exoskeleton that made his escape possible.
Is it any good?
Director Jon Favreau keeps the film light and bright; the special effects are impressively crafted, and the setup for another film is handled gently and well. Iron Man knows that it's a comic book movie; not only does it have all the plot points and moral messages that we're used to from Spider-Man, Batman Begins, and others in the genre, but it also subtly mocks and twists them. The plot touches all the bases of the traditional "origin story" (how our hero becomes a superhero, his first outing with his new powers, etc.), and it shows plenty of hustle and style as it does so.
But if there's any one thing that makes Iron Man more than just a run-of-the-mill superhero film, it's Downey Jr. His work here is funny, human, heroic, and completely engaging, capturing the brisk breezy laugh lines, the adrenaline-fueled action, and the moments of bold purpose that every superhero has to have as they start out. He gives both Stark and Iron Man a little swagger and coolness -- in a field normally filled with nerds (Spider-Man's Peter Parker) or stiffs (Superman's Clark Kent), it's a refreshing change.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of comic book movies like Iron Man. Do they speak to escapism or darker fantasies about power?
How does the fact that much of the movie's violence is based in fantasy affect its impact? How is it different watching human characters get hurt than robots and other beings?
Iron Man may be a do-gooder, but he's no Boy Scout. Can heroic characters still be flawed? Does that make them more heroic or less?
- In theaters: May 2, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: September 30, 2008
- Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Jon Favreau
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Self-control
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.