Iron Man is one of the few superhero films of late to take its source material seriously. The film also boasts an impressive roster of note-worthy A-listers. All of these elements, combined with great direction by Jon Favreau, make Iron Man one of the best superhero movies ever made. Iron Man exceeds Superman Returns (and the Donnor original), Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Hulk, all three Spiderman movies, X-Men, most of X-Men 2, X-Men 3, both Punisher films and all of the Batman films except Batman Begins. Batman Begins takes its source material just as serious, if not more so. There are few jokes during Begins and as a consequence, the tone is kept somber, less commercial and less popcorn than Iron Man. The elements just mentioned (jokes, being commercial and easy digestibility) are so intertwined in Iron Man, they are Iron Man. They do not stick out or become omnipresent to the viewer, though you will feel their presence. There are hilarious moments of levity in Iron Man that are as well executed as the ones found in the Spiderman films (especially Spiderman 3). The creation of the first and second Mark suits; and the hi-jinks that go into their development and testing lighten the mood of the Iron Man and in many instances, serve as the film’s comic relief.
The story of Iron Man revolves around an arms maker and manufacturer, Anthony “Tony” Edward Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a flamboyant ladies man and billionaire. Stark inherited and runs Stark Industries, a company that was handed down to him when he was old enough, through decree of his father’s will. Stark’s father, Howard Stark, was one of the prestigious scientists that worked on The Manhattan Project from 1941-1946 and created Stark Industries in his later years. While Tony was growing up (after Howard ’s death and before he was given Stark Industries to run), Stark Industries was managed and overseen by its founder’s best friend and partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). During Iron Man, Stane is the partner of the grown up Tony Stark in Stark Industries. When Stark is captured by a terrorist group called Ten Rings during a demonstration of Stark Industries latest weapon, the “Jericho” missile, he is given an ultimatum. Build them the cluster missile that was just demonstrated or die. This life or death situation is the beginning of the character and personality change for Tony Stark. Being forced to arm terrorists, terrorists that idealize the weapons he has created, helps Stark realize the error of his arms-making ways. During the death of a certain character, that character asks Stark to “do better.” Stark’s personality change is rooted in this three month long ordeal but even more so in anger, sadness and remorse. The person in question was shot down by hand weapons he designed and manufactured.
This event is also what separates Iron Man from most comic book superhero movies. Stark goes through a real change right in front of the viewer’s eyes, something the audience can easily understand and empathize with. For all of his bravado, jokes and immature behavior, Stark is human and when he escapes and returns home, he makes a conscience decision about the direction of Stark Industries. This is much to the dismay of certain members of Stark Industries and unbeknownst to Tony Stark (for a portion of the film anyway), brings a hidden enemy out into the open. It is when the true enemy is revealed, a realistic enemy that isn’t bent on world domination or other megalomaniacal schemes, that Iron Man becomes an even better film.
Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was an unexpectedly solid superhero film. There are harbingers to future Iron Man installments (the silver Mark II suit) and other superhero movies (Captain America) in the works within Iron Man that the diehard, observant comic book fan will surely notice. There is also an appearance by another superhero at the end of the credits in Iron Man. I was very surprised and intrigued by the choice of who to play this particular superhero was. Before the credits rolled, the acting in Iron Man was good, the special effects were great and both the protagonist and antagonist were interesting to watch and entertaining. The same can be said for the remainder of the supporting cast: Stark’s personal assistant Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), his military liaison Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and all the others that helped make Iron Man something special.