Rating: 5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Tony Stark is a brilliant and wealthy man who has never taken himself seriously, and who makes and sells weapons because that’s what Stark Industries has always done, that’s what makes money, and that’s what his father figure Obadiah Stane thinks is best. It’s not until he’s captured by a terrorist group in Afghanistan and is forced to think his way free that he begins to realize what he’s capable of, and when he sees first-hand the pain his weapons can (and do) bring to the world he questions the way he’s lived his life.
In Afghanistan he devises a suit of armor to facilitate his escape, which he later begins to refine. As Iron Man he’s now able to go after the terrorists, but, more importantly, as Tony Stark, he begins to change the way his company does business. The true conflict of the movie is not about Iron Man the superhero; it’s really about Stark versus Stane, and the intersection (or lack thereof) of morality and business. Stane is willing to sell weapons to anyone, regardless of how they’ll use them. Of course, that conflict is dramatized in the end by Stark and Stane both putting on giant robot suits and punching each other, but hey, it’s still an action movie.
The opening scene of Tony riding with a military convoy is fantastic, and perfectly sets up the tone of the movie. Tony is charming and funny with the soldiers, and then everything explodes. That is Iron Man in a nutshell.
I loved every scene of Tony designing the Mark II and Mark III suits in his basement lab. His various “test drives” and his interactions with JARVIS and his other robot friends are a lot of fun, and the final reveal of the red-and-gold suit is awesome. Brightly-colored comic book costumes almost always need to be adapted to some extent for live-action adaptations or they look silly, but somehow the Iron Man armor just looks so cool.
If you didn’t see Iron Man when it was originally in theaters, I don’t know if I can convey to you how it felt, as a comic book fan, when Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson, the unofficial model for the “Ultimate Universe” version of Fury, of all people) suddenly shows up during the credits and starts talking about the Avengers Initiative. Mind-blowing.
“They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
“If you douse me again, and I’m not on fire, I’m donating you to a city college.”
“There is nothing except this. There’s no art opening, no charity, nothing to sign. There’s the next mission, and nothing else.”
“Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave with a box of scraps!”
“The truth is… I am Iron Man.”
I have trouble caring about an action scene that involves no human beings, so the final battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger is not the most exciting for me. It redeems itself a little with the “How did you solve the icing problem?” call back, which does a great job of highlighting the difference between Tony Stark the engineer and Obadiah Stane the businessman.
Re-watching Iron Man, it’s a tiny bit cringe-inducing to see Terrence Howard look at the black-and-white armor and say, “Next time, baby!” Not for you, buddy.