“I’ve never really had a taste for this kind of thing, but I must admit I’m deeply enjoying the suit!”

Iron Man was never my favorite superhero in the Marvel Universe. Nothing against him per se, really; I suspect that this is likely due to the fact that the Iron Man comic wasn’t terribly compelling during the years I was an active reader of Marvel comics. I didn’t have all the money in the world, so I had to at least be somewhat selective with respect to the comics I was purchasing on a monthly basis, and when I occasionally tried an issue of Iron Man, I wasn’t terribly excited by it.

So that’s one reason I’m not terribly familiar with the whole backstory behind Iron Man – I know about as little about Tony Stark as one can know. In fact, when I was reading comics, Tony Stark wasn’t even Iron Man! For some reason, Stark had given up the suit, and another guy was wearing it. I don’t recall any of the background behind that. So I came into seeing Iron Man pretty much blind. All I knew, really, was that the movie is generally very highly regarded in the superhero genre.

I can certainly see why.

Iron Man is – wonder of wonders! — a superhero movie that is actually fun to watch. It employs a story that is as old as the hills, being a “Self-absorbed jerk learns a better way to live” narrative as Tony Stark realizes that maybe he can’t live with being the world’s greatest weapons manufacturer and that he has greatly misused his enormous intellectual gifts. What’s nice is that the film doesn’t dwell on Stark’s character growth; it’s there, but it doesn’t bog down the entire movie as these kinds of superhero lessons often do.

The film opens with Stark touring in Afghanistan with a company of US soldiers, but he is taken prisoner in a vicious attack and forced to build a weapon for the Afghan Taliban soldiers. (At least, I assume they’re Taliban. I’m not sure the film was entirely clear on this point.) The leader tells him, in Arabic, “Build the weapon and then I will set you free.” Another captive, who serves as translator, relates this to Stark, who mutters, “No, he won’t.” So Stark takes the raw materials he’s been given by the Afghans and builds his means of escape: an armored suit of metal that has rocket thrusters and a whole lot of flamethrowers. In other words, Stark builds his Iron Man prototype.

It’s when he returns to the US that Stark discovers that his company is not aligned with the side of the angels, and he begins work on his new, improved Iron Man suit. Thus begins some high adventure as Tony Stark realizes too late just whom he is up against.

As noted above, I give Iron Man high marks for not following along in the Dark Knightization of its superhero story; this is at its heart a light, fun adventure movie to which one can happily apply an adjective like rollicking. I have nothing against dark, grim stories that plumb the depths of human cynicism; but I do like the occasional story where a guy is a hero at least partly because he has fun being a hero.

Acting-wise, the film is top-notch; Robert Downey Jr. captures perfectly the inherent arrogance and brilliance of Tony Stark. Jeff Bridges chews lots of scenery as only he can. I always like to see Gwyneth Paltrow in stuff, flakey as she seems to be in real life. I wasn’t as totally thrilled with the Nick Fury cameo in the end credits, because as much as I loved the Marvel Universe when I was a kid reading comics, I’m not sure I’m enthusiastic about “Marvel Universalizing” the various movies they have coming out over the next few years. But that’s just me.

I’m told that Iron Man 2 is not as good as the first, but I’ll find that out for myself at some point.

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3 Responses to “I’ve never really had a taste for this kind of thing, but I must admit I’m deeply enjoying the suit!”

  1. Jason says:

    For what it's worth, I liked Iron Man 2, but it's not quite up to the standard of the first. Be warned: the "Marvel Universalization" continues in IM2. What's going on (and forgive me if you already know this) is that they're building up to an Avengers movie by introducing each hero in a standalone movie… Thor is coming up this summer, Captain America sometime after that, with presumably another Iron Man in there. The same actors playing the heroes in the solo flicks will appear in The Avengers. It's an audacious plan; I am dubious as to whether it will work, though. The Hulk is a major weak link, since neither Hulk movie worked. But we'll see…

  2. Kal says:

    Now THIS is why I read you. You are not a gushing fan boy like myself and I appreciate you thoughtful take, you DIFFERENT well thought out take on something I know all too much about.

    It's that fetish I have for anyone that puts in the EFFORT even on a post.

    And if you like Iron Man, think of how much of a wet dream it was for someone uber comic fan like me. They go so much right that it raised the bar for what could be a fantastic run of individual character movies leading up to the AVENGERS.

    Iron Man suffers from expectations that it cannot possible fulfill but it's three stars where the original is 4.

  3. Roger Owen Green says:

    I thought IM was one of the best superhero movies I'd ever seen, up there with Spider-Man 2 and the 1st Superman. Didn't see the 2nd one.
    BTW, I was not a big IM fan; I'm sure it had to do with a vague Yellow Peril vibe – he came of age in the Vietnam era.

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