Iron Man (2008)
The easiest way to sum up this movie is Robert Downey Jr. He is this movie. Robert is Tony Starks. Without Robert this movie would have been empty gadget porn. Don't get me wrong, I like Jon Favreau (the director, who also makes a nice cameo as one of Stark's bodyguards). I really, really like him. I feel a certain kinship as we are both Librans (with birthdays very close together) and both grew up in Queens. I think his role as Mike in Swingers will be forever burned into my consciousness, however, without Robert this movie would have been a flat, ordinary, predictable and gadget ladened comic book based movie.
The movie is a very straight forward narrative (and very predictable) of a talented person caught up in the money, fame and drugs of living the "good life". To say that Tony Starks has an ego is an understatement. You can hate him at the same time you really like him. He is the charismatic rogue and frankly what most men want to be (lets be honest). At the beginning of the movie, Tony lacks a purpose. That purpose is given to him inadvertently when he is kidnapped by some Islamic terrorists (do we really need to get his clichéd?) and forced to build his company's top of the line missile in a cave out of spare parts. Instead he creates an iron suit and decides to escape. The experience infuses Tony with a purpose to make a positive difference in this world, of which the result is Iron Man. There are several subplots, twists and turns, but all are quite predictable (and wrap up quite nicely by the end of the movie).
The supporting cast is good, though I think they're not suppose to overpower or even make much of an impact. They are props for Downey to envelope us in his magic. Does it matter that his personal assistant is played by an Academy Award winning actress (Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts) or that his "friends" have 5 Academy Award nominations between then (Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard)? It doesn't. They are they simply there to fill in any of the rough patches and makes this movie look smooth. For the most part, they succeed, but in a behind the scenes and supportive way. They hardly stand out.
While this is a showcase for Downey, Favreau adds some nice easter eggs for the fans. There are several important easter eggs that Favreau throws out during the course of the film.* He also delves into Stark's relationship and alcohol problems of which Downey has adequate life experiences to base his method acting on. There are adequate crumbs here to lead one to at least one more film. The rest is Downey interacting with technology. What can one say about the special effects of Hollywood that hasn't already been said? This is a prime example of the technical proficiencies of a good Hollywood production, while Favreau keeps it from becoming ridiculous. Tony Starks lives & breaths technology, so it is quite appropriate. Are you taking notes Michael Bay? This is what Transformers should have been like.
To read this review you might think that I didn't enjoy this movie or perhaps have an unhealthy fixation on Robert Downey Jr. Both are not true. I liked this movie and I have never had any doubts about Robert's talent. Iron Man has joined the ranks of Spiderman 2 as my two favorite (and best) comic based movies. Both are very enjoyable, yet flawed (and definitely not horrible. Yes, I'm looking at you Fantastic Four).
Other have dismissed my qualms with the movie by reminding me that this is a comic book based movie. To this I respond with why does a comic book or comic book based movie have to be simple, predictable and clichéd? There are numerous instances of the medium's seriousness and complexity. Why does a summer blockbuster have to be flashy, trite and predictable? It doesn't have to be that way.
This movie is much like most staged performances. You don't want to get to close to the sets/stage or you might risk dispelling the illusion. The same goes for Iron Man. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
*EASTER EGG SPOILERS
-READ AT YOUR RISK-
-Rhodes makes a comment about a second suit, alluding to War Machine (spin off or next movie??)
-S.H.I.E.L.D is formed.
-In the final scene (pre-credits), Starks admits publicly that he is Iron Man essentially doing away with the duality of superheros (the hero and the disguise).
-After the credits Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance a Marvel's Ultimate Nick Fury.
-Many allusions to what could be the next movie featuring the Mandarin