Iron Man was always
sort of a B-level superhero in the Marvel Comics universe. He never
quite got the adulation and respect that was afforded to Spider-Man, The
Incredible Hulk or even The Fantastic Four. He was always more of
a utility player, more on a level of more hard-core cult faves like The
X-Men, Captain America and the Silver Surfer.
In recent years, all of
these characters (except Captain America, who is coming soon enough -
tentatively in 2009) have made it to the multiplexes. Now it's Iron
Man's turn, and the pleasant surprise is that this is the best Marvel
adaptation since the first Spider-Man movie. (Yes fan-boys,
even better than Spider-Man 2.)
A huge amount of the credit
for this quality is the unlikely, but pitch-perfect, casting of Robert
Downey, Jr. in the title role.
Downey has always been one
of our best actors, but due to personal demons and professional bad luck he
has never become the huge star he deserves to be. He discussed this
conundrum in his career with us when we interviewed him a couple of years
ago about A Scanner Darkly, one of many films he has made which
didn't quite take off. At the time he was working on David Fincher's
Zodiac, apparently a splashy role that would push him up into the
A-List. Only Zodiac never quite reached the audience that was
expected, so it didn't launch him into the stratosphere.
project], just because of better quality,“I just look for the
highest degree of difficulty and disappointment”
Downey said at the time. “Life's
really messy.... I think that I hold the record
for having been the actor who has done the most movies
[who] still makes the same amount of money as [I
did] when I was three movies in.... It’s
my lot in life just to be really patient and wait and be disappointed. It’s
not about your day job, anyway. It’s about what you’re here to do, whatever
However, now he is clean
and sober and after putting in some of the best work in his career in some
slightly under-the-radar films - as well as occasional high-salaried
sellouts (and who deserves it more?) like The Shaggy Dog. His
reward will come with Iron Man.
Downey uses his whip-smart
devil-may-care wit to great effect as Tony Stark, a multi-millionaire
scientist, arms manufacturer, philanthropist and playboy (and in the
wonderfully offbeat world of the movie, that description is not a
contradiction in terms).
While showing off his
latest weapons breakthrough in Afghanistan, Stark is kidnapped by terrorists
and forced to recreate the missile for them. Instead, Stark plans his
escape by making a flying armor suit.
Back in the States, Stark
becomes determined to no longer create weapons which can be accessed by the
enemy to kill Americans. He also works diligently to perfect the
super-armor which saved him. Stark sees it as a way to vanquish evil,
his partner (Jeff Bridges) sees it as the greatest weapon yet.
However, for all the action
sequences - and Iron Man has several good ones - the real thing that
makes the movie special is the characterizations. Not only is Downey
near pitch-perfect, but Gwyneth Paltrow gets her best role in years and Jeff
Bridges makes a nice against-type villain.
The movie has blockbuster
and franchise written all over it. Ironically, Iron Man will
push both the actor and the character into the A-List, where they belong.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: May 3, 2008.