When I first heard that Robert Downey, Jr. had been cast in a super hero role, I was quite skeptical. I love RDJ, but he’s more romantic lead (see Only You) or wisecracking sidekick (see Zodiac or Good Night, and Good Luck) than bold and buff hero material. Now that I’ve watched Iron Man, I must say that I was impressed. Although I applaud Downey for his always impressive work, credit also goes to the screenplay writers, for giving him such rich material to work with. Most comic book movies are more flash and less substance. I’m not saying that Iron Man was deep, Oscar-worthy material, but we did get some interesting character development for Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Warning: I divulge quite a bit of the plot ahead, particularly the beginning of the movie, so if you haven’t watched the movie yet, read on at your own risk.
Tony starts out as a rich, carefree, irresponsible playboy, ditching an awards banquet to gamble, and having an endless supply of fast cars to occupy his time. However, he is a likable, endearing guy as well, and is always the life of the party. He wins over everyone from the beautiful and initially hostile reporter (who quickly ends up in his bed) to the uptight, all business military man (who ends up drunk and high-spirited).
Tony’s outlook on life, and on his weapons company, changes when he finds himself in a dire situation. After being seriously injured, abducted, and ordered to build a destructive weapon, he uses his genius, creativity, and will to survive to escape his captors. How? First he and his fellow inmate create some sort of glowing magnet that will keep him alive after the life-threatening injury he sustained (that’s a good enough explanation for me), and then they proceed to build a super cool suit instead of the missile they were supposed to be working on. The movie really picked up speed about the time Stark first dons his high tech armor, and it never let up after that.
The passage of time was difficult to follow during the movie (his three months of captivity seemed more like a few days), but that’s a small complaint in a movie that never had a dull moment. Another of the less enjoyable aspects of the movie was the occasional cheesy moment, but what’s an action movie without a few of these? I was a bit disturbed to see the normally goofy Jeff Bridges as the sinister Obadiah Stane, but I hardly recognized him with his bald head and frizzy beard. The other main character was Tony’s personal assistant, Pepper Potts (what a great name, as are all the character names in this movie! Plus, it was nice to see Gwyneth Paltrow again – it’s been awhile.). Tony’s interaction with Pepper is what allows us to see his more likable side.
The most impressive part of the movie? Iron Man! I’m usually only mildly impressed by gadgets and super hero suits, since I’m more interested in characters and plot, but what else can I say but that Iron Man was super cool? From the impenetrable suit to the flame throwers, to the super sonic flying ability, I was basically mesmerized by Tony Stark’s genius creation. It was also fun to see the evil Iron Giant that Stane’s team came up with. The iron on iron fight in the streets and on the rooftop was rather legendary.
I also liked that the movie ended differently than most super hero movies. Usually, our hero saves the day, then continues to wear his mask to hide his true identity, but as a bonus he gets the girl. This movie flirted with both of those stereotypical super hero motifs, but ultimately went in a different direction.
So, was it a four star movie? No, not really. Was it entertaining? Most definitely. Fantastic special effects? Certainly. Everything it promised to be? You bet. I must say, that Robert Downey, Jr. can do no wrong.