johnlink ranks IRON MAN (2008)

I have some how missed all of the Phase 2 Marvel films so far. It has not been intentional, it just hasn’t happened. I wanted to start with the third IRON MAN film, but haven’t seen the originals since I saw them in the theater. I figured it would be fun to get through all three in fairly quick fashion. So, and I know this is a novel concept, I started with the first one.


I watched IRON MAN (2008) on 4.25.14. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since it’s opening weekend in theaters.

While history may remember IRON MAN as the movie which started the AVENGERS era boom for Marvel, it may be forgotten how surprising its success truly was. I began working in movie theaters in late December 2007. IRON MAN came out in early May 2008. In the months building up to that summer, IRON MAN looked ‘good’ but looked like an appetizer to the more anticipated May releases of SPEED RACER (so much for that) and the fourth INDIANA JONES (haha). Of course, as we know now, IRON MAN turned out to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the most well regarded movies of that 2008 Summer; a list which includes WALL-E and DARK KNIGHT.

All of this is to say that IRON MAN surprised people with its wit and awareness. Watching it again reveals how far in advance Marvel was planning. The action is minimal and mostly features anonymous villains. The final battle, with Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit (Robert Downey Jr) fighting off a giant robotic enemy played by former friend Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges). That final battle shows some of the suit’s features, but also feels like it holds back in scope because the movies don’t want to blow their collective wad yet.

Instead, the reason IRON MAN is so damned good is thanks, almost entirely, to the performance of Robert Downey Jr. His Tony Stark is a womanizing alcoholic who finds his soul in a cative desert cave over the course of three months. Rather than becoming a morose guy (a la Batman), Stark continues to use his wit and sarcasm to his advantage even as his “mission”, as he calls it, becomes more and more serious. Gwyneth Paltrow may not get the credit she deserves as sidekick Pepper Potts. This is a character which needs to stand equal to Tony. Conventional Hollywood wisdom would usually have some young, hot chick cast in the character creating a sort of worship relationship. Paltrow gives a little weight and experience to Potts. When she starts to fall for him the resistance is believable because the character stands on her own merit. This may be a subtle distinction, but it gives the entire movie more of a center mass as the events chaotically swirl around it.

Usually a movie like this is only as good as its villain. Jeff Bridges is fine as Stone, but he’s not really asked to do anything. Instead, the movie is driven purely by the hero and his relationship to others. It is fascinating how effectively Downey pulls off scenes with a bunch of robots in a CGId environment. His relationship with his robots feels more REAL than his relationships with most people, even as he treats them with the same disdain as he treats everyone else. The moment when he first attempts to fly at “ten per cent” is high comedy. I have not seen this movie since the theater, and I found myself giggling like a school girl in anticipation as this sequence started and all the way through the payoff. I’m not sure quite what it is about IRON MAN, but it works.

Jon Favereau, who both directs and plays a small part as a bodyguard, likewise seemed an odd choice when this movie was announced. He had directed MADE, ELF, and the kids’ movie ZATHURA. This wasn’t exactly the guy who seemed the center of the comic book world. This is a movie which put him on the map as a Director. It is no small feat to pull off what he did with a relatively limited script and not much but charisma from the lead actor and a desire to stick with effective CGI in place of a ton of showy stuff. Everyone probably knows this by now, but IRON MAN truly is one of the great rides of the modern comic book movie era.



I love the music selection and score in the movie. The score is mostly hard rock with tones of the Black Sabbath Iron Man riff. This is a fun movie to listen to as well as to watch.


FIN AL SCORE: 7.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on April 26, 2014.

6 Responses to “johnlink ranks IRON MAN (2008)”

  1. Great review! I had forgotten how successful this was at time since there are so many movies in the Marvel Universe now. I sometimes struggle with the individual Marvel movies but I actually prefer this version of Robert Downey Jr to the one we see in the Avengers. Here, there is more space and time for him to seem human than when he shares screen time (even though he gets most of it in the Avengers).

  2. By far my favorite Marvel movie, aside from the Avengers. Just so much fun and so surprising what one can do when they just allow superhero movies to be funny. Good review John.

  3. I loved this movie. Robert Downey Jr. really surprised me when I first saw this.

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