Robert Downey Jr. and the ‘Iron Man’ Review
First off, right out of the bullpen, I want to warn readers that this review of Iron Man, the first self-financed feature film from Marvel Studios, WILL HAVE SPOILERS. Normally, I try to keep any stories involving a new release free of them, but as you will read, this film is just chock full of little “fanboy delights” which enhance the experience and are an important part of the overall product.
With that said, this film should be labeled “FFBF”, meaning “For Fanboys, By Fanboys” because director Jon Favreau seems to know what the comic fans wanted to see. One gets the impression that if he were sitting in the seats, he’d want the same thing from this comics-famous tale of a millionaire, arms-manufacturing playboy Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who decides to craft a supersuit and fight evil. Over the course of the film, anyone familiar with the character and the greater Marvel Universe will likely enjoy the references (sometimes subtle, but not always) to things ranging from War Machine to the Mandarin… even to S.H.I.E.L.D.
So make sure to pay attention, and most importantly, stay in the theater until after the credits!
Diehard Iron Man fans shouldn’t be put off by this film. In the past, more than a few liberties have been taken with our favorite characters from the world comics, which almost never goes over well. This film’s one big change (its “organic webshooters” for the comics-savvy) is making Jarvis a computerized butler, rather than an actual human. This sounds worse than it really is, as it actually fits the story. Plus, with another film about a vigilante millionaire superhero with a butler just a few months away, who needs the extra confusion?
Breaking the film’s elements down, not a whole lot can be criticized here. With the cast and the direction, you get outstanding performances from everyone involved. Only about 1/4 of the action sequences were done using computer-graphic-imaging, which leaves for a very realistic feel. The plot and story structure never drag or induce drowsiness. Being produced independently is what makes this film work on so many levels. With other superhero films, it becomes about the actor or the studio, which is the only viable reason why Spider-Man “had” to have his mask off through 2/3 of that three-film franchise. Here, you get plenty of Downey Jr.’s pretty mug, while still getting lots of time with the cold stare of the Iron Man mask.
This film takes all of the great elements from both good and bad genre films and expands on them. If you enjoyed the fight sequences between RoboCop and his gigantic robot counterparts in that franchise, or the scenes of Bruce Wayne tooling away at his bat-gadgets during any of the Batman films, or even the quick-witted, cavalier millionaires of Entourage, there is something for you in Iron Man. But by far, the most entertaining aspects are the comedic elements placed throughout the story — from sassy robots to our main character, who is still able to spout out a quip when he’s minutes away from death.
The relationship dynamics also keep the pace of the film ripe. The complex almost-relationship of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Stark is a breath of fresh air considering what we’ve been given in the way of other superheroes’ relationships in recent films. Jeff Bridges pulls out an amazing portrayal of “corporate evil” as Stark’s nemesis, Obadiah Stane, and the puerile camraderie of Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and Stark is very much like the relationship between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in the latter’s much-hyped 1996 film, Swingers.
As a whole, this film stands tall as one of the best superhero films that we’ve seen in theaters so far, and certainly the best to pull from the Marvel Universe of characters. Being that Robert Downey Jr. is one of the biggest stars the genre has been able to cast in a lead role up to this point, and the insinuation that there are greater things in store on the big screen for Marvel’s stable of characters, I think we can expect more from the actor in the future — and certainly more from Marvel’s primary stable of characters. Iron Man is easily a strong start to what is turning out to be one of the biggest blockbuster summers for comics fans and the film industry alike.