86%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)

Iron Man is one of the best superhero origin stories where Marvel does the most in creating its own superhero universe.


Italked to someone who was working at Marvel when they were developing Iron Man. He stated, as an avid comic book fan, that his biggest compliment to Marvel is that, when the story and script wasn’t working, Marvel threw it away and started all over instead of trying to force something to work. Aside from a few near misses, we’ve seen this happen for their shared cinematic universe. The ground work for what they’d refine and, some would argue, perfect is shown in their feature length adaptation of the character Iron Man, a billionaire playboy industrialist who creates a suit of armor to help protect the world and the innocent.



Iron Man leaps to the screen, thanks to the bold and, some would say, brazen idea to hire Jon Favreau, who is best known for directing Elf, and casting Robert Downey Jr, when he was still recuperating his image. Simply put, if these two did not sign on to this project, the project would fall apart. Iron Man cast two “come back kids” in roles where they could grow artistically with each other while growing a strong level of trust. It certainly helps that Favreau starred in and wrote the indie hit, Swingers. This, however, lead Downey, Jr. to accept a role as a semi-alcoholic control freak, which was not unlike the perception others had of him at the time. That Downey, Jr. signed on and allowed this to happen is one of the more interesting casting directions a film has taken. Favreau had often mentioned Johnny Depp as a lynchpin for the Tony Stark role, and perhaps Downey saw the same potential, but the suits needed to be convinced, along with the insurance companies, to sign on.



In the first scene, you see a microcosm of why Iron Man works so well through a combination of action, humor, editing, and tone. Tony Stark sits with a group of American GI’s traveling through Iraq, as they sit slack-jawed on how amazing this guy is. Tony goes back and forth between being funny and being a dick, while always being in control and, of course, extremely charming. Soon afterward, their convoy is hit by an enemy attack and Tony quickly finds himself out of control, frantically running away until a STARK INDUSTRIES rocket lands next to him. It explodes, and then cuts to an awards ceremony he was at before he left on his trip. This scene shows Stark with all of his different personality traits, while allowing the audience to quickly become comfortable with him. After that, you see Stark thrust into a firefight he’s never seen before, exposing his vulnerability. As he watches everyone around him die, he tries to escape until, in the ultimate irony, one of his company’s ordinances blows him up. It’s brilliantly put together, and shows the pivotal nature of what an opening sequence can do for a film.



The scene also shows the secret hero of the film, which is deftly handling pacing and tone. Writing everything above shows an abundance of tonal land mines, let alone potential character flaws that would sink other films. Not only does Iron Man handle them, but handles them so quickly, without causing an ebb in the progression of the story, that it ends up as an action scene that builds characterization. This allows the filmmaker more time to focus on character and scenes, allowing the film to feel more spaced out.




As Favreau showed in Elf, understanding your protagonist is key to the whole picture. Not many people have fought terrorism, slept with supermodels, won industry awards or become a billionaires. Although many people have seen films like this, the inability to relate to your protagonist makes it difficuly for the audience to buy into the choices they make. Favreau eliminates that concern in the first sequence, again allowing himself the ability to show the character in a less developed state as he progresses towards becoming the hero he will become. It’s simple, but absolutely key for everything that will happen later. It’s no small feat, also due to the work that Robert Downey Jr. does as the character. Charming and manipulative, but ultimately portraying such a man with a heart of gold, he shines and sparkles more as Tony Stark than Iron Man, wanting us to get through the action scenes so we can witness more of this utterly complex man. Truthfully, he deserved an academy award for this portrayal.



The supporting cast is not that far behind. Jeff Bridges is absolutely mesmerizing as the bad guy. The bad guy is one note, only focused on taking over Tony’s company Stark Industries for his own, and pushing the company towards his agenda, so he can be realized as the genius he is. It plays perfectly against what Stark is, and also doesn’t overpower the film. Origin films are for the heroes and Kevin Feige, as the producer, wisely chose to not bring in a villain that would overpower the hero.



Gwyneth Paltrow also shines as Pepper Potts. Favreau made the interesting choice to let fans vote upon five different actresses for the role of Pepper Potts. If this was truly the case, fans made the right choice since Pepper Potts on screen focuses on being competent and unraveling a mystery far more than the the film focuses on her being a damsel in distress. In fact, you can argue that Pepper Potts is the secret hero of the entire story. She’s the one that drives the plot forward, outmaneuvers the bad guy, and ultimately defeats him in the end. It’s a fantastic way to view a postmodern anti-damsel-in-distress and shows a real confidence in the character. Marvel and their team allow Pepper Potts to be a fully developed human being to which audiences can truly relate, instead of just shoe-horning a character in because they were important in the comic.



It’s amazing how easy they make things look. The sound effects are not over-dramatized. The layering and background express different mindsets of technology. From the rugged wasteland of the middle east, to the adult playground of Las Vegas, the set design, color schemes, and soundtrack all build towards this realization of becoming a hero. The simple cues in the background show where Tony is as a character as well as foreshadowing of where he’ll end up. It’s subtle, like everything else in the film, and it works extremely well.



However, Iron Man suffers somewhat in its villain’s plot. Although Jeff Bridges is quite good, we don’t get a good indication of who he is as a bad guy or why. The dialogue between he and Tony shifts between a mentor ship and antagonistic. These two titans have a history, but the film doesn’t give us a good indication of what that is. Iron Man soars in the sky; you feel everything the main character does. It takes a man made of metal and gives him a heart. While other superhero films may have been done better, this one lays the concrete foundation, and watching it again shows Iron Man will continue to age quite well.


Director: Jon Favreau

Produced by Kevin Feige, Avi Arad.

Screenplay by Matt Holloday, Hawk Otsby, Mark Fergus and Art Mercum.

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrance Howard and Shaun Toub.

Produced by: Marvel Studios

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Rating: PG-13

About The Author

Creator / Managing Editor

David Postma is the creator, co-managing editor, and writer for Filmtakeout. After receiving an Associates Degree in Journalism from Grand Rapids Community College in 2006, he attended Columbia in Chicago where he graduated in 2010 with a Bachelors in Film. Dave interned at Lionsgate Studios in 2008 where he worked in both the Television department and the New Media department. Dave also runs a production company, Beyond the Horizon, which helped to produce "Weed Road", a hit reality show on the Discovery channel. He currently assists with Global Benefits LLC in financing for commercial, real estate, and entertainment ventures; and he recently became Chief Operating Officer at M6 International where he assists both in financing structures for the company and helping assist overseeing productions of entertainment and commercial projects across the company stratosphere. Dave also sits on the board of directors for Downbeat Collective, a non profit dedicated to creating artistic endeavors to help provide funding to non profit organizations of various need.