I saw Iron Man tonight.
What follows is as spoiler-free as I could make it. But if you want to go into this flick totally devoid of any knowledge, why don’t you check back in after you see it and let’s see if we agree?
OK, now, let me get right to it: the film is tremendous. Director Jon Favreau was able to create a very intense, serious film (one not aimed just at the little kiddies) that is also quite funny and endearing. There’s a lot of humor, but its not the type of forced “stand back, here comes the wakka-wakka” type of humor that so often makes me cringe in comic book films. Much of the credit for this must go to the man in the lead role.
I’ve already read a number of reviews that emphasize how perfect Robert Downey Jr. is as Tony Stark, and I most vigorously agree with the chorus. Not only is he a visual dead ringer for the character (the goatee is perfect), but he’s able to convey just the type of rich, spoiled, brilliant, cocky bastard that is Tony Stark. As I alluded to above, there’s a tremendous amount of humor is this performance – I love his banter with his “lab assistants,” and with Jarvis – but also a lot of weight. Like most superhero origin stories, this movie centers on “the turn” – when the hero character has to change from the person he was to the more righteous person he will become. That can be a tough moment to play, and not every superhero movie – or ever actor assaying a superhero – can sell that. But Downey Jr. just nails it.
The whole rest of the cast is dynamite as well. The casting of Jarvis was dead-on. Terrence Howard is terrific as Stark’s buddy Jim Rhodes. I love how he’s able to nudge Stark on his behavior without being a total stick-in-the-mud himself. (In the plane-ride scene early in the movie, you can really see why he and Stark are friends!) Gwyneth Paltrow is also very strong as Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant. She maybe gets a teensy bit too damsel-in-distressy towards the end of the flick, but she is a lot of fun to watch throughout the film. Just as Terrence Howard does in his role, her performance hints at a long shared history with Tony Stark – and that really helps to flesh out the “world” that these characters inhabit.
Jeff Bridges brings a lot of charisma and energy to his role of Obadiah Stane, Stark’s mentor. I just love Jeff Bridges, and it looks like he was having a lot of fun in the role.
Let me take this moment to commend the film for not having any bad guy with a crazy plot to blow up the world. I like that the story stays small – that the conflicts are mostly personal. I also love the connection with Stark, as opposed to bringing in some random super-villain for the action finale.
I also can’t forget the terrific Clark Gregg as an Agent of…well, you know! (At least any good comic book fan does.) You might recognize this familiar face from The West Wing (FBI Agent Michael Casper) or Sports Night or his many many other TV & movie appearances. I was glad to see him pop up here, and hope he has more to do in the sequel.
Speaking of the sequel, any comic fan who pays close attention will know for damn sure who the villain will be in the sequel. (Keep your eyes on a certain adornment that the two most villainous characters in the movie have in common!) I can’t wait to see how that character is handled. (I’m almost as excited as when Batman Begins closed with the promise of The Joker in the next one…)
In case my gushing hasn’t convinced you yet – go see this film right now, and have a lot of fun!
And for all that is holy, stay until the end of the credits!!! You’ll be glad you did.
(P.S. I’m already working on some Iron Man cartoons for this site – they should be ready next week, after our characters’ adventures this week in a certain big dumb robot movie from last summer…)