The missus and I caught Iron Man on Friday. As long time readers know, I was a huge comic geek growing up, and I still appreciate and enjoy them, even though I don’t collect them anymore (I can’t afford to! Have you seen the prices on comic books lately?). I always enjoyed Iron Man but he wasn’t one of my favorites. However, this movie changed that.
It is no secret that the star of the film, Robert Downey Jr.has had his share of trouble with drugs and the law in the past. Also, if you have read any reviews whatsoever, you have probably already seen critics heap praise on Downey’s performance — in this case at least, they are right. Downey is pitch perfect as Tony Stark, a technology whiz and heir to Stark Industries, his father’s munitions empire. This is an origin story, so when we first meet Tony he is busy enjoying the rewards of his genius and ambition: an obscene fortune, celebrity, and a revolving door of pretty one-night stands who his long-suffering assistant, Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), dutifully hustles out the door of his Malibu mansion the next morning.
While on a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate his newest weapon, the Jericho missile, for the military, Stark is kidnapped by the Ten Rings terrorist organization. Wounded and knocked unconscious during the attack, Stark wakes up and discovers that his fellow hostage Yinsen has fused a crude electromagnet to his torso in order to prevent the shrapnel in his chest from entering his heart. Stark also discovers, to his horror, that the Ten Rings have a large supply of Stark Industries munitions. The leader of the Ten Rings threatens and tortures Stark into building a copy of the Jericho. Instead, Stark and Yinsen use their materials to 1) build a more powerful and stable power source for Stark’s heart and 2) build a crude armor that will facilitate their escape. The subsequent escape is a thrilling and satisfying sequence as Stark delivers some rough justice to his captors and manages to escape.
Back in the U.S., having seen first hand what his weapons can do and realizing that he may have more to offer the world than “new things that explode”, Stark immediately shuts down the weapons division of his company pending an investigation into how his weapons got into enemy hands. This doesn’t sit well with his military liaison James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard) or his partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). Stark then begins building a new version of his armor, with loads of weapons and cool gadgets. This middle third of the movie drags a bit but does deliver some of the funniest scenes in the film as Stark finds numerous ways to injure himself and destroy his own property while field testing his designs.
Things pick back up in the final third of the film as Iron Man returns to Afghanistan to finish off the Ten Rings, runs afoul of the U.S. Air Force, and has to go toe-to-toe with a “surprise” villain who has his own larger and more powerful version of the armor.
A great cast with a sense of humor, a well thought out script, terrific special effects (with limited CGI), and attentive direction by Jon Favreau make this one worth seeing in the theatre. Apparently, its already has made a fat load of cash and a sequel has been greenlit, scheduled for 2010.
Given the character’s 40+ years of history, there are numerous places that the sequels could go. Iron Man was the first super hero to struggle with alcoholism, and at one point Rhodey had to wear the armor when Stark was incapacitated. This is hinted at when Rhodey takes a look at one of the prototypes, sighs, and says, “Next time, baby, next time.”
Another indicator of the future direction is a post-closing credits scene. It may not mean much to comic neophytes, but long-time fans will get a kick out of it.