Movie Review 2008 #59: Iron Man

I took myself to see Iron Man in the theater today.

Iron Man is a comic book origin story starring Robert Downey Jr in the title role, with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, his able and willing assistant, Terrence Howard as Col. Rhodes, his military-oriented friend, and Jeff Bridges as his turncoat friend and colleague Obidiah Stone.
Iron Man is admittedly one of the mid-majors in terms of the Marvel superheroes. He doesn’t have the cachet or name brand recognition to the general public of Spiderman, or the Hulk. Sure, he’s been one of the Avengers, the “flagship” superhero team in the Marvelverse, but even there, Captain America is usually the hero.
So, Iron Man was an unusual choice for a superhero movie.
With his own personal problems with addiction and the pressures of stardom, Robert Downey Jr is an inspired choice to play playboy Tony Stark. It’s one of those pitch perfect castings that will be very difficult to successfully recast years from now, just as Tobey Maguire has probably given us a Spiderman difficult to top, and Christopher Reeve is still THE movie Superman.
The story is taken from some of Iron Man’s origins, updated to the 21st century. Stark is a playboy/weapons magnate, who gets captured while showing off his toys in Afghanistan. Set to building weapons, and plagued with shrapnel buried close to his heart, Stark invents both a new power source, and a exo-skeleton suit to escape his captivity. Upon returning from this, his desire to end his business’ darker aspects leads him to conflict with Stone, who doesn’t see anything wrong with “ironmongering.”
We get to see all aspects of Stark’s life, from the glamour to “the toys”. We believe that Stark really could build v1.0 of the suit in a cave in Afghanistan, especially when we can see what he can REALLY do when he has the full resources of his own factory-cathedral in his home.
Iron Man isn’t quite as good as Spiderman II, the Incredibles, or X-Men II, but its pretty damned good. I think its only real weakness is a consequence of choosing Iron Man as a superhero–the lack of a true nemesis. Sure, having Obidiah put on a suit and fight Iron Man works as a final antagonist, but Iron Man (in this movie) doesn’t get to face a nemesis like Magneto (The X Men) or Doctor Octopus (Spiderman), etc. It’s a fact of life that superhero movies reach the pinnacle by having a villain worthy of the adversary. Iron Man doesn’t quite have that in this movie.
And yes, the physics are “comic book” physics. Stark probably should have died several times over in this film. I dealt with it.
Iron Man is a very, very good superhero movie that I fully intend to purchase on DVD.
And yes, the credit cookie is a lot of fun.
If you have any interest in superhero comic book movies, or even just action movies in general, you owe it to yourself to go and see Iron Man.