Title: Iron Man
This review covers the original 2008 film. The sequel will be reviewed on a later date.
I have seen this film during its theatrical run and recently decided to revisit it with some friends who were all interested in its upcoming sequel and are fans of Robert Downey Jr. All of us became so amused by Downey's wisecracks with straight delivery that we later watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which will be covered on the next post.
At the time of its release, I had become burned out by the superhero genre and wished Hollywood would stop depending on Stan Lee's ideas for their fortunes and present some of their own. Plus I hadn't really been familiar with the character of Iron Man outside of the "Captain America and the Avengers" arcade game that featured Iron Man alongside other Marvel superheroes in a side-scrolling beat-em-up quest to save the world. I eventually decided to take a chance on it due to a friend's urging to come see it with him. I don't remember the reason why he was so gung-ho about watching it. Maybe he thought the explosions looked cool. I don't know.
After watching the film, I was left with two conclusions. The first was that Iron Man was a perfectly average and acceptable superhero film. The second was that a perfectly average and acceptable superhero film was still better than most stuff you'd find at a multiplex. It's very entertaining, yet it seems doubtful that its popularity will hold up. Only time will tell on that.
Iron Man's alter ego Tony Stark is a bit similar to Bruce Wayne. He is wealthy and not afraid to flaunt what the common man can only dream of. A mansion in Malibu, fancy cars, women that follow him for attention and people that follow his orders. And like Bruce Wayne, his transformation into a superhero was the result of an accident of unforeseeable circumstances. Unlike Bruce Wayne however, Stark's income is dependant on a more controversial trade. His company manufactures large-scale military weapons and sells them to both the National and International armies. When a visit overseas results in him being held hostage by a group of Afghan terrorists who want him to build a missile for them, Stark realizes that he owes more responsibility to his business and needs to keep the weapons out of the wrong hands, which is even more complex than he knows.
Stark breaks free from his captors by instead building an advanced suit of armor that can fire weapons and shield him from heavy firepower. After returning home, Stark ceases all production of his company's weapons and works privately to build another suit of armor, which will help Stark combat the forces of evil and understand his true potential.
Stark's right-hand man Obadiah (Jeff Bridges) is dismayed at his colleague's sudden change of heart out of concern for his meal ticket and something the audience won't know about until later.
Robert Downey Jr portrays Stark with terrific wit and charisma. His scenes are easily the most fun to watch and it's interesting to see his progression from cold arrogant businessman to cold arrogant businessman with a conscience. His allies include his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and U.S. military leader James Rhodes (Terrence Howard) who are aware of Stark's motivations and do their part to help with his mission.
Iron Man has a serious undertone to it (weapons are not to be taken lightly), but the film doesn't allow itself to be too serious, which is the ideal formula for the superhero genre. The villains are cartoon-like in behavior yet are still believable in their fear presence. By the time the film reaches its climax, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting and hoping for good to win over evil.
One thing that surprised me about this revisitation was how I noticed that there is little time actually devoted to action scenes, which is odd considering I remembered the film as being very loud and fast-paced. It may disappoint the Michael Bay fans out there, but it's great to see an action film having a story to fall back on instead of solely depending on loud explosions. Of course, that only works if you find the storyline interesting. To me, it was just interesting enough to work.
Iron Man works on its own, but this may be the rare case where sequels are necessary to carve out a true legacy. Let's hope it happens because they're off to a great start.