The first superhero movie of 2008 is Iron Man, and this one is a good way to start the summer movie season.
Iron Man is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, and follows industrialist/billionaire playboy Tony Stark as he journeys from being just a celebrity businessman and weapons designer to someone who chooses to do something about changing the world his inventions have helped create after experiencing first-hand the destructive consequences of the weapons his company has been building and selling.
The movie storyline uses current day updates of many of the major plot points from the comic: Stark being critically injured in a war zone; having a scientist save his life by building a makeshift device to keep his heart going, and also help him build the first version of the armored suit; weighing the ethics of manufacturing weapons; and enduring trials and tribulations over the control and ownership of Stark Industries, among other things.
Comic book purists might gripe about some aspects of the use and mixing of different elements from different times from the comic, but newcomers to the Iron Man universe won’t be lost or confused, which was one complaint I’d heard from non-fans about the first X-Men movie. It also serves as a good introduction to the main protagonists, and a teaser intro for S.H.I.E.L.D. Alas, no Samuel L. Jackson cameo as Nick Fury that I caught.
The extensive scenes that focus on Tony Stark designing, redesigning and perfecting the suit are not only fun, but give viewers a look into the mechanical and design genius of Tony Stark.
There’s a playful quality that Robert Downey Jr brings to the portrayal of Stark that wonderfully balances the darker aspects of Stark’s character that are merely hinted at, and that can be attributed to Downey, period. I have mixed feelings on the quick introduction and demise of Iron Monger, though. Jeff Bridges lent weight to an Obediah Stone that went completely unexplored. I’m not sure what else could have been done to bring more to that part of the story without making the movie overlong, but to me, that felt like the only real missing piece.
The development of James Rhodes seems to have been trimmed down from originally intended, but the spirit of the character is still there, and there’s one scene with Rhodes and an earlier version of the suit that Tony had built that will have longtime fans smiling. Hopefully, the producers will give Terrance Howard much more screen time in the sequel.
This is a fun summer movie, and it might even keep the robot suit fans happy until the next Transformers movie comes out. As a comic book superhero fan, this one more than satisfies as an opening chapter in an ongoing story, and in my opinion, does so better than the first X-Men movie did. I’m even looking forward to seeing how they work Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. into the Incredible Hulk movie coming along next month.