The most refreshing thing about Iron Man is the fact that its story decides to stick around and finish the movie with the film’s audience. A large number of big-budget action films don’t have this luxury, and this is one of the deciding factors that makes Iron Man a really entertaining film.
The story centers on Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), a man who owns one of the largest military contracting companies in the United States. He flies to Afghanistan for a missile demonstration, but after, he is captured by a terrorist group. They demand that he builds another missile, the exact same one that was used during the demonstration. This segment is actually just a section that has little to do with the actual film, but it gives us character development on the part of Stark, as well as giving us the first opportunity for some real action.
These terrorists don’t—or at least, don’t by themselves—become the main villain of this story though. That job goes to someone else, in a plot twist that, while you’ll likely see it coming from quite a distance away, I can’t spoil for you. It’s a strong villain though, one whose intentions become clear enough, and also someone who definitely has the ability and resources to take down Tony Stark.
Stark, after getting out of Afghanistan, comes home and decides that a fun little side project would be to build the titular Iron Man suit. What use is this to someone of his wealth? Well, he wants to right wrongs and fight crime, of course. And he’s successful, mostly, until the big bad guy of the film is revealed and he ends up in a fight for his life, going the route that many action films go.
But, like I mentioned earlier, Iron Man keeps the story involved with these action scenes, making them mean something even when special effects are flying at the audience at a quick clip. The final action scene of the movie, despite not being the most visually impressive or fun to watch, means a lot because there are reasons for it to take place—more reasons than just “Oh look, a bad guy is trying to kill our hero.”
The interesting story sticks with the film until the end, which makes all of the entertaining action scenes mean something.
The plot is almost good enough to make a compelling drama. Just about, but not quite. There are some moments that don’t entertain, a couple points that don’t quite add up, and not enough drama to actually make it a great story. But it certainly does its job in driving the story of an action film. It has some plot twists, enough set-pieces to keep the audience entertained, and time left to give us character development. It does almost everything that is required of it, and Iron Man feels like a full, well-rounded film because of this.
The supporting cast, while not all that interesting or developed, is at least full of interesting actors. Jeff Bridges is Stark’s business partner, helping Stark Industries to become a company of great profit. Stark has an assistant that I can only infer lives with him at his mansion, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The only other person worth mentioning is the man who invites Stark to Afghanistan in the first place, a military Lieutenant Colonel, played by Terrence Howard. There’s a scene in the movie where he teases putting on the Iron Man suit. “Maybe next time,” he decides. I chuckled when I first saw this film, figuring he’d get his chance in the inevitable sequel.
I mentioned the supporting cast, but haven’t mentioned how good of a job Downey, Jr. does in this role. To put it simply, he nails it. He’s pretty much the perfect actor for this type of role, being able to show off a smug, “I’m more intelligent than you” side, while also having moments of genuine compassion—often coming right after one another. He’s also quite funny and somewhat of a crazy character, becoming someone we like soon after the film begins. If you can make the audience laugh with your antics, and you’re an all-around good guy, people are going to like you.
Visually, the film pops. The action scenes are incredibly entertaining, and the special effects are really well-done. Even though an Iron Man suit likely couldn’t be made with today’s technology, and likely couldn’t perform most of the stunts that it is required to in this film, it looks real enough for us to believe that it exists.
Iron Man is a very good superhero film. The interesting story sticks with the film until the end, which makes all of the entertaining action scenes mean something. They’re not empty CGI-fests, but are instead CGI-fests with a purpose and a point, with the characters we’ve grown to care about involved within them. Robert Downey, Jr. is great in the lead role, and while the side characters don’t get much development, they’re played by good actors and do their jobs fine. It’s definitely a film that I recommend going to watch.
Conclusion: Iron Man launched a mega franchise. It’s a great movie on its own, though.
Recommendation: Iron Man is worth seeing even if you don’t plan on watching the other films in the MCU