The trailer for this film spoke volumes. The film… speaks an entire library. It falls in line with the great superhero films, like Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins. And in some ways, tops them. Such is Iron Man.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a multi-billion dollar industrialist who made his money from weapons development for the military. After experiencing the destructive nature of his arms first hand while a hostage in Afghanistan, Stark feels it necessary to change his life’s goal, much to the chagrin of his business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). Keeping Stark on track and in line are his assistant/love interest Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his military liaison/best friend Jim Rhoades (Terrance Howard). In order to combat his former war profiteering ways, Stark develops an advanced suit of armor with the latest in robotics, computers, weaponry and metals, leading him to be affectionately known as the Iron Man.
In recent years, mostly since 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey has become one of my favourite actors. and the character of Stark/Iron Man is the best for him. Or maybe he’s the best for the character. The thing fascinating thing about Stark is his motives behind being a hero. With Batman it’s revenge, Superman the desire to do good and Spider-man it’s guilt. But with Iron Man, it’s atonement. Stark experiences first hand the wrath of his weapons. And then he realizes that he has to do more than just denounce weapons production. He has to right his wrongs. Only way to do that, is to be Iron Man.
And that’s where Downey takes over. Downey has a knack for playing uniquely troubled characters. Tony Stark is one that he deeply understands, as he himself is a fan of the comic book. Downey figured out the character, and enveloped it. Too many times we had Brandon Routh as Superman or Tom Jane as The Punisher. But with this, it was Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man.
But Downey, as talented as he is, did not make this flick on his own. There was the bizarre, inexplicable romantic chemistry between him and Paltrow, as his long suffering assistant Pepper Potts. The two actors have had very different careers, and never in a million years would I have picked those two to portray romantic leads in a film. But for some reason, it worked. The fact that they are so different, and so are the characters, made it work.
Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Arlington Road) is an actor, who if you were to ask me to define his career, I couldn’t. He’s played a multitude of characters in a myriad of different genres. But his turn as the villainous Obadiah Stane/War Monger is a fantastic look at a villain. He wasn’t the traditional villain. He wasn’t driven by hatred for the hero, or megalomaniacal desires. He’s driven by protecting his own interests in war profiteering. He’s the embodiment of true villainy. He’s looking out for number one, and he’s protecting his greedy interest. He’s got no real regard for anyone else, just himself. He’s the perfect counterpoint to Downey’s Stark.
Director Jon Favreau deserves a lot of the credit for this film. He kept the reigns on the story to keep it from getting too out there, and actually explored the practical science of Iron Man. Sure you have to suspend some disbelief as several pieces of technology don’t exist or completely defy laws of physics. But a lot of it is very interesting. And Favreau, like Downey, knows and understand the material. He was able to respectfully bring Iron Man to the big screen.
I highly recommend this for anyone. It combines what made the dreadful Fantastic Four popular and what made Batman Begins so damn good. It finds the balance with light fun, hard core action and in-depth character study.