As I’ve said many times over the years, I’m a “DC Guy,” not a “Marvel Guy” (Truth be told, I’m really only a “Batman Guy” but that’s neither here nor there).
Consequently, I’ve never read a single IRON MAN comic book in my life. So the bottom line here is that I’m virtually clueless when it comes to this particular comic book superhero.
Now that can be a good thing, you know? Many times, not being familiar with a film’s source material -- be it a novel or comic book -- can make it easier to enjoy and critique it on its own merit. So in the case of IRON MAN, I can go in simply as a movie fan (or in this case, a movie critic) without any preconceived or biased ideas what an “IRON Man” film should be.
Here’s the plot of IRON MAN in a nutshell:
Billionaire playboy (sound familiar?) and weapons tycoon Tony Stark is waylayed in a surprise attack in Afghanistan and taken prisoner by what I believe is the Taliban. While captive, he sees that the weapons he developed to “defend” the good ’ol U.S.A., are instead being used against his own country's soldiers.
Naturally, Stark escapes, does away with the arms division of his company (Stark Enterprises), and devises a suit of armor so he himself can hunt down and demolish all the weaponry he feels personably responsible for creating.
As the “Iron Man,” Tony Stark attempts to make amends for all the bad in the world that he believes he has caused.
The best part of IRON MAN is the performance given by Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role. His casting was a bit reminiscent of Michael Keaton being chosen as Bruce Wayne/Batman in 1989’s BATMAN in that Downey was not the expected choice to play the Golden Gladiator. Regardless, Downey is fabulous as Stark and made the movie for me. I’ve been a fan of Downey since I first saw him in LESS THAN ZERO twenty years ago and have long thought he was a tremendous actor. And in IRON MAN, he doesn’t disappoint.
RDJ as Iron Man in IRON MAN
His stark is driven and arrogant, yet he’s a technological genius. I particularly enjoyed his turn as the somewhat reckless - and total smartass -- Stark. Also, he's damn funny, but not in a campy, roll-your-eyes sort of way.
I’m not sure how much of Iron Man was the work of Downey, as it’s clear that our hero is CGI a good chunk of his time onscreen.
That latter point is one of my main criticisms of this film: Iron Man looked CGI. With that said, there is no way to do Iron Man right without CGI, so I guess it’s an acceptable annoyance. (It does make one appreciate Chris Nolan’s BATMAN films much more due to his aversion to CGI, but I digress.)
As far as the supporting cast: Meh. All were OK as Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow neither had me thinking “They’re really good” or “They really suck.” Perhaps it had something to do with RDJ who steals the film -- but how can you steal a film if you are the star? Nevermind.
My only other criticism is that IRON MAN operated above the norm when it comes to comic book films until the finale when it became your very clichéd and predictable “Superhero Movie.” That might have cost it a half a letter grade with me.
"Yeah, I can fly."
Is IRON MAN a BATMAN BEGINS, SPIDER-MAN 2, or SUPERMAN? No, it’s a notch below those great films. But it is very good and certainly better than most of the crap that Marvel is known to dish out. They should be proud of this one.
And finally on a personal note, praise be to L. Ron Hubbard that Tom Cruise didn’t play Tony Stark! Don't you think it would have been sort of hard to do that patented “sprint toward the camera scene” in that Iron Man getup.