Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), genius CEO of the weapons manufacturer Start Industries, is kidnapped by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings and forced to build his deadly weapons for their gain. Instead, Tony creates a suit of armor and escapes. Once he returns home, he refines his suit and sets out to destroy his company’s weapons around the world, but not before the plans for his suit fall into the wrong hands.
Let’s go back in time a little, shall we. The year is 2008. Movies based on Marvel comic books have really started to take off over the past decade or so. Starting with Blade and X-Men but really exploding in popularity after Spider-Man in 2002. Not only were a wide range of Marvel’s characters given the movie treatment, their success varied greatly as well. There were high praises, such as Spider-Man 2 and X2: X-Men United, and critical flops, such Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four. These properties were all handled by different studios but Marvel decided to take their properties into their own hands and opened Marvel Studios. With most of their major characters in the hands of other studios, they turned to one of their lesser known properties: Iron Man. Little did the world know what would come from this monumental move.
I’ll first start with the obvious: Robert Downey, Jr. is absolutely perfect as Tony Stark. His Tony is arrogant. His Tony is self-centered. And yet, his Tony is lovable. His Tony is confident. His Tony is humorous. It’s hard to believe, but he was actually quite different from his comic book counterpart at the time. The comic Tony was a playboy but he was much more serious and not as laid back. Since RDJ’s take on the character, this has changed. It is one of those pairings that was just meant to be. I can’t imagine anyone else in the part and fulfilling it was well as RDJ.
What I think makes this such a great origin story is how well it is paced. There is adequate amount of time spent with Tony before he becomes Iron Man to get a feel of who he is before he dons the armor suit. Then he goes through the trials of using his new invention and it feels neither rushed nor dragged out. So by the time he finally has to use it against Iron Monger, he looks a little rough but feels like he understands how to use the suit.
I think one of the reasons Marvel chose Iron Man to kick of what would become an expansive cinematic universe was because relatively speaking, he is a fairly grounded character. Sure, he may be flying around in a metal suit but that is much more believable than someone turning into a green rage-filled monster or a talking raccoon. He is a smart billionaire who is very hands-on. They show this by having him work on his hot rod; really showing off that he knows what he is doing and talking about. It is easy to imagine something like happening in real life and was never over the top.
I have mentioned about how well Downey, Jr. was as Stark, but his supporting cast was great as well. Gwyneth Paltrow was great as the sleek and sexy Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant. Paltrow and RDJ have good chemistry, resulting in some great back and forth moments. I also liked Terrence Howard as Stark’s best friend Rhodey. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark’s business partner, and ultimately his enemy, would have to be my second favorite performance. He was able to pull off both the friendly mentor side, as well as the crazy bad guy side.
Iron Man’s significance wouldn’t be felt until several years later. Today, Marvel Studios is a box office juggernaut and it’s all thanks to this bad boy. I remember seeing it in the theater and thinking it would exists in it’s own little universe much like all the previous Marvel movies over the few years before. That was until the post-credits sequence when Nick Fury showed up. That was when I knew this was building up to something greater. And I couldn’t have been happier.
I have come to regard Iron Man as the template for how superhero origin stories should be told. Great casting and well-paced, Iron Man isn’t just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie period.
Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.
Christine Everhart: You’ve been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?
Tony Stark: Absolutely ridiculous. I don’t paint.
Christine: And what do you say to your other nickname: The Merchant of Death?
Tony: That’s not bad.
Cast & Crew
Jon Favreau – Director
Mark Fergus – Writer
Hawk Ostby – Writer
Art Marcum – Writer
Matt Holloway – Writer
Ramin Djawadi – Composer
Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Terrence Howard – James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes
Jeff Bridges – Obadiah Stane
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Leslie Bibb – Christine Everhart
Shaun Toub – Yinsen
Faran Tahir – Raza
Clark Gregg – Agent Coulson
Bill Smitrovich – General Gabriel
Sayed Badreya – Abu Bakaar
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice)
Jon Favreau – ‘Happy’ Hogan