I have a friend who hated the Thor and Captain America films, and in general, felt the directing in the Marvel movies were bad. When I asked about the Iron Man movies, his reply was that “well, there’s Robert Downey Jr”. I might not agree entirely with his assessment of the other Marvel films, but I agree with this statement of his very strongly. RDJ is a major reason why the Iron Man films worked, and why they’re so great. Besides being so ridiculously hot, RDJ’s portrayal of Tony Stark hits the right chord of devil-may-care and responsibility towards the world at large – the perfect blend of comedy and tragedy. I had this theory, in an English assignment, that if CEOs of big corporations could see for themselves how the workers at their supply factories were suffering, they would cease to exploit the poorer countries so much. I’m not entirely convinced of that idea; it was added more for the sake of the assignment – purgatory, as they say. Yet Tony Stark’s change of heart after witnessing for himself the devastation his industry brought sold the idea to me more than any English assignment could have done.
The hero’s origin story is an important one, because it sets the ground for so much of the character’s development and the forces driving his decisions in later films. A mis-step, and this house of cards tumbles. If there’s one reason – any reason – for you to watch this film at all, watch it for RDJ’s performance. It may be because RDJ the actor is so much like Tony Stark himself, and though I don’t read the comics, from what I’ve read online, RDJ is Tony Stark. From a non-reader’s perspective, he perfectly encapsulates the arrogant yet mature hero – a breed halfway between Thor and Batman (gosh pardon the rather inaccurate analogy), who is arrogant like Thor but in a delightful manner that would kill the audience if he were to mature to “worthiness”, and who feels the Dark Knight’s responsibility towards his world. Yet there is guilt at play here, and a deliciously cavalier attitude. Tony Stark, as he is in the movies, is really my favourite superhero, because he is fun, unlike so many other brooding heroes, and a hero because of his intelligence. Built, not born. The montage depicting the development of the Iron Man suit is pure joy to watch, and realistic too.
Certainly, another thing I like about this film is the realism, which makes for some truly witty and clever sequences like Pepper Potts’ very realistic shaken responses to the dangerous situation Tony puts her into, the mutual disaster Tony causes trying to evade the fighter jets, and the very, very smart way Iron Man disposes of the terrorists holding hostages – a throwback to the classic sequence where the villain holds the heroine hostage leaving the hero in a stand-off, hesitating to shoot.
A perennial problem I have with the Iron Man films is the pacing. After the exciting and snarky first half, the plot drags a little nearing the ending, and the action sequence at the end, while said to be underwhelming by some, actually appeals to me upon repeated viewing. I couldn’t really buy the extended fighting scene at the end of Iron Man 2, because there’s just something about robots fighting robots that strikes a harsh cord in me, that rakes up memories of terrible sci-fi pieces and the Transformers movies.
My favourite Marvel solo movie.
Favourite scenes: The Jericho, changing the arc reactor, building the suit, clash with military, Pepper Potts stealing from Stane’s computer, “The truth is… I am Iron Man’.
Rating on Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Rating on IMDb: 7.9
Viewing history: Seen 2x. TV.