I know that it is fairly well documented by now, but apparently Robert Downey Jr wasn’t supposed to play Tony Stark / Iron Man, now that I’ve watched it a couple times I can’t imagine anyone else having a crack at it.
I’m not a comic book guy, I read comics as a kid, but more Donald Duck vs the Beagle Boys stuff. I never got into The Phantom or Captain America stuff, in fact everything I knew about Iron Man I learned from listening to Ghostface Killah albums, hardly a lengthy study. Tony Stark is yet another creation of Stan Lee, the man responsible for seemingly half of the big budget movies of the last decade, and Stark has a good backstory.
Tony Stark was born into money, but it helps that he is a creative genius also. Hardly a shrinking violet or a reclusive inventor, he does what everyone (at least thinks) they would do if in a position to do so. He bangs supermodels, often two or more at a time, drives fast cars and spreads his money around.
He is witty, smart, sophisticated, vain and a little flawed, a description that also exactly suits RD Jr, casting him was probably the smartest move that was made, and allowed Iron Man to be strong enough to be mentioned in the same breath as the new Batman movies, although it is in my opinion just a minor notch below both.
What Iron Man isn’t, is derivative or indulgent, when the credits roll and everyone walks away happy it is a feeling well earned.
Tony Stark is the head of Stark Industries, a massive company responsible for creating and manufacturing the best weapons on the planet. You know, “When it comes to spreading fear, 9 out of 10 terrorists prefer Stark Industries weapons.”
The movie gets right into the action, Stark is traveling with a military escort after a weapons demonstration when the convoy comes under fire. Most if not all soldiers are killed, and Stark is sent flying by one of his own weapons. Oh the irony!
When he comes to, he has been taken hostage and thanks to a fellow prisoner who happens to be a doctor has a magnet strapped to his chest to prevent shards of shrapnel burrowing into his heart and killing him. The terrorists, realizing who they have in their hands, demand Stark build a superweapon for them using all the tools at their disposal. Instead of doing this Stark builds a metallic suit, the bulky and unwieldy “Mark 1”.
Using the Mark 1 Stark escapes, amazingly the suit takes a huge amount of direct fire, some near misses by rocket launchers, but literally explodes when it crashes into a sand dune on its maiden flight.
Regardless, once Stark gets back to captivity he decides to “go straight” and tells the press that Stark Industries is out of the weapons game, which shocks the hell out of Obadiah Steyn, the public face of the company when Stark is under the weather or out whoring it up.
Stark’s right hand man is Pepper Pots, his secretary who handles all the everyday running of his life and tries to make sure that he stays on the straight and narrow where possible. Gwenyth Paltrow plays Pepper Pots, and really doesn’t have a great deal to do. He also has a good buddy in the military Col. Roads, a virtual butler named Jarvis and a couple of robotic assistants who are largely along for comic relief.
The Mark 1 inspires Stark to hone his design, and he does so successfully after some amusing failed attempts. Once he completes and test drives the suit (which looks and performs in a cool manner), it obviously becomes sought after by various parties, most of them thinking naughty thoughts, and the rest of the film has Tony Stark fighting for truth justice and the American way, (or something similar).
Downey Jr is quick witted and rarely shuts up, though he is never boring or annoying, Terrence Howard sorta sleeps through his role as Col. Roads, but as a hardened military man he is supposed to be calm and stoic I guess. Paltrow plays the role that only several thousand random interchangeable Hollywood women could play, and she seems bemused to even be there after a decade of so called “serious” stuff.
The strangest thing is how old Jeff bridges looks with a bald head and a full beard, I had to remind myself that I was watching “the Lebowski Dude” but I must say he has an immaculately shaped head that looks great bald, and played the almost Father figure to Tony Stark quite well.
There are some great setpieces, some snappy dialogue and quite a few more laughs than the Batman flicks, or a season of Two and a Half Men for that matter.
The acid test: my wife watched Iron Man with me, all the way through, without once walking off in disgust or needing to “Oh sure!” her way through long scenes, which happens in quite a few action or guy movies that she has witnessed.
I might take the ultimate challenge later this year and see if my Dad will sit through more than 15 minutes of this without leaving the house.
The best part? I actually really look forward to Iron Man 2 & 3, as opposed to say X-Men or Spiderman when you know you’ll watch the inevitable sequels but don’t expect much.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. This is a very entertaining movie that also works as a serious film. That doesn’t happen too often. So as long as Downey Jr is Stark and Favreau is directing, I’m aboard for the ride.