As directed by Jon Favreau whose previous directing efforts include ‘Zathura’ (?) and ‘Elf’ (!), Iron Man is a well-made comic book adaptation that is successful in many ways. First, it is impeccably cast. Downey Jr. in my opinion doesn’t necessarily scream “superhero” but he really shows off his skills here as Tony Stark. Stark is basically like Batman’s Bruce Wayne but with a much more fun and bright personality. His parents left him as heir to their wealthy weapons company Stark Industries. While in Afganistan there is an attack and he becomes held captive for three months. He escapes when he builds a suit made of various metals. This experience changes him for the better and he perfects a better suit that can fly and shoot at bad guys. He’s cared for by his own younger and curvier version of Alfred: Ms. Potts (a surprisingly good Gwyneth Paltrow). Stark decides that his company is “wrong” for supplying weapons of mass destruction; Stark’s business partner Obadiah Stane (a bald Jeff Bridges) doesn’t like this too much.
What is so great about the movie is that it’s witty and funny without being silly (see Fantastic Four). It takes itself seriously like Batman Begins, but it doesn’t wallow in the boring psychosis of its main character. We get learn who Tony Stark is through his actions and dialogue, we don’t need to see inside his head to understand his personality. There really isn’t a scene that is wasted and instead of being constantly bludgeoned by action scene after action scene the script (from two of the writers of ‘Children of Men’) features Stark becoming Iron Man rather than fight scene after fight scene. It’s a movie that is superbly balanced. You wont be saying, “oh he takes too long to become Iron Man” and you won’t be saying, “He becomes Iron Man too quickly.” It follows a perfect pace that lets the characters become enjoyable to the audience without the kitschy dialogue usually found in these movies.
I knew nothing about Iron Man going in and I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t need to be a fan to enjoy the movie, which is what good comic book movies know how to do best. They can please longtime fans and make new fans all within two hours. This is a movie that deserves a metal of honor. Get it? Iron Man is made of metal. See, the movie doesn’t include corny jokes like that. It is smart and fun and a great start to summer season. Can’t wait for part 2. GRADE: A-