As a billionaire playboy industrialist and weapon designer, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes) has it all. Or so it seems, until he is held hostage by a group of Afghan terrorists and is critically injured by an explosion. He is left dependent on an electromagnet in his chest from stopping the metal from reaching his heart, and he then goes on to use this to power an iron suit and escape. But back home, he realises that his weapon company were the ones supplying the terrorists, leading him on a phoenix-from-the-ashes journey to become Iron Man.
The film has strong supporting cast, including the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love, Shallow Hal) as Stark’s PA Pepper Potts, Terence Howard (Ray, Red Tails) as Stark’s close friend and military liaison Lt. Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Jeff Bridges (Tron, True Grit) playing the second-in-command to Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane. But all of these performances pale in comparison to Downey Jr. I’m not saying that they’re bad, but Downey Jr.’s performance completely embodies the character and his performance is so natural; his nuances and mannerisms suit the character. It’s like he’s not even acting, Downey Jr. is Iron Man.
As a film on its own, Iron Man stands strong. It has the right balance of action sequences and drama scenes, with a decent amount of character development thrown in. But it never forgets its roots. Iron Man is a comic book film through and through, with a big bad antagonist at the end, yet it doesn’t stray too far into incredulity. This was the film that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s nice to see all the little things that connect them together in the movie show up like S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg in his breakout role).
Iron Man is great film, both on its own and part of a larger universe. It is very rare that an actor delivers a performance that defines a role. We were just lucky enough to get two in the same year.