Two nights ago my streak of finally attending movies this summer began with a crashbang! when I saw Iron Man. I enjoyed the mixed bag experience last July of seeing Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Terence Howard, and Gwyneth Paltrow on a panel to premiere the trailer to a crowd of eager nerds. The downside of this mixed bag was that I managed to miss out on the goodie bag associated with this particular panel, and I didn't get one of their super-cool glow in the dark t-shirts. Before Comic Con, I had barely heard of Iron Man beyond peripheral nerd osmosis, and after one viewing of the trailer I was completely convinced that it had the very real possibility of becoming one of my favorite superheroes.
As someone with no experience with the comic book (or most comic books, really), my perspective on Iron Man is taken mostly from its place among other comic book adaptations. Plenty of superhero protagonists are anguished or tortured or conflicted, but Robert Downey, Jr.'s approach to Tony Stark was refreshing to see. In this post-Spiderman 3 world, watching Stark be proud and excited to be Iron Man, knowing that he's doing the right thing and having a great time doing it was invigorating, and made me root for him all the more, perhaps especially because of his alcoholism and womanizing. His transformation into Iron Man is totally believable, from his personal change to the changes in his relationships. RDJ, despite the unfortunate facial hair, is someone whose movies I'll be sure to look for (incl. upcoming Iron Man franchise installments).
My criticism of the movie is that for all of the very exciting action scenes, I didn't think there was enough. I was much more excited by the construction and gadgetry than I was by the fighting. The earlier action sequences, with Iron Man suit 1.0, Stark testing out his prototypes, and going to help the small village, built me up for a huge ending, which I felt the movie lacked. The Dude's skill in his power suit was pretty unconvincing, and I felt like we'd seen Stark become Iron Man in order to have a 1-on-1 fight that didn't excite me too much. If there had been more of a sense of Pepper Potts in extreme peril, or the terrorists thisclose to taking over everything, and a few more explosions and stuff, then I think the final set piece would have been perfect, and elevated the movie substantially.
I'd heard that the post-credits reveal would be "the coolest thing ever in a comic book movie," but it ended up being something that a comic book novice like myself would have to look up in order to appreciate. I think that the franchise that Favreau & Co. are looking into is going to be a very enjoyable addition to the genre, and I can see how a more action-packed second installment (now that the characters are introduced already) would be even stronger (a la X2). Hopefully the third movie, instead of sucking hard like so many other threequels before it, could be an Avengers exploit, which would give it the added dimension a threequel so often lacks.
And what a great state we are in, in this media-imbued society of ours, governed by a Hollywood industry of sequels and remakes, in which I feel confident enough to review films that have not even been brainstormed yet!