There was a time when the average movie buff had little reason to have high expectations for superhero movies. The truly good ones, such as the first two Superman movies and the first two Batman movies (discounting the 1966 one with Adam West), were few and far between. Fortunately, times have changed and the past several years has seen the first two Spider-Man movies and Batman Begins. To this list one can now add Iron Man.
In fact, short of Batman Begins, Iron Man might be the best superhero movie ever made. Of course, it must be admitted that director Jon Favreau and screenwriter John August had a lot to work with. As comic book characters go, Tony Stark is a rather complex character. He is a multi-billionaire manufacturer of munitions. He is egotistical. He is a playboy. And he is an alcoholic. In many respects, Stark is the most complicated character to originate in mainstream comic books, short of Bruce Wayne (The Batman) himself.
It is the fact that director Favreau and screenwriter August use the demons which haunted Stark in the pages of Iron Man as the centrepiece of the movie. What is more, Favreau and August expanded upon those demons, exploring the guilt that would haunt a munitions manufacturer with the opportunity to see firsthand what his products have accomplished, as well as the motivations for a billionaire playboy to become an armour suited superhero. What emerges in the end is a character who is more complex than Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movies and every bit as complex as fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne.
Of course, all of this would have failed had the role of Tony Stark not been perfectly cast. My best friend had earlier commented that casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, an egotistical, alcoholic playboy was typecasting. It was also, however, a brilliant piece of casting, as Downey breathes life into Stark as perhaps no other actor could. Downey's Stark is arrogant, flippant, and ultimately tormented, as he goes from being the carefree head of a successful weapons company to the Golden Avenger. What is more, Downey is not the only bright spot in the cast. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as Pepper Potts, Stark's administrative assistant who is intelligent, grounded, and devoted to her boss. Similarly, Terrence Howard is also well cast as Colonel Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes, Stark's much put upon liaison to the military. Jeff Bridges also turns in a good performance as Obadiah Stane, Stark's second in command at Stark Industries.
It is through what because of what could the best cast of any superhero movie that the screenplay of Iron Man is so well translated to the screen. This is an intelligent action movie, running the full gamut from some very serious dramatic scenes to some rather humorous ones. Fans who grew up with the comic books will appreciate many of the in jokes, as well as what may be Stan Lee's best cameo in a Marvel film.
Of course, any superhero movie must have its share of action, and there is no shortage of it in Iron Man. The climax alone (which I will not spoil for you here) is one of the best of any superhero movie. This is helped a great deal by the movie's rather incredible special effects. It is often hard to believe that Iron Man's suit is largely a CGI creation, as it looks entirely real.
This weekend Iron Man brought in $100.7 million. As great as the movie is, I rather suspect that repeat viewing and good word of mouth will bring in quite a bit more at the box office. And while there are many summer blockbusters that don't deserve to make hundreds of millions of dollars, I can honestly say that Iron Man is worth every dollar it earns.