Iron Man marks Marvel’s first self-developed and self-financed film (in a ten-film deal with Paramount) and the way that this Jon Favreau-directed, Robert Downey-starred blockbuster translates the comic book so successfully onto the big screen augers well for the other Marvel films to come.
None of those changes in major elements here that piss off fans so badly (I really hated what X-Men 3 did to the Dark Phoenix Saga and especially to my beloved Cyclops). Sure, there is a significant update from the 1963 origin that introduced Iron Man (instead of Vietnam, substitute Afghanistan and instead of Vietcong, substitute Muslim terrorists) but that’s all absolutely necessary to make the film relevant for 2008.
Most of the key factors are intact. Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Obadiah Stane, James Rhodes even the Mandarin (though now an Arab terrorist – this era’s bogeyman) are almost exactly as portrayed in the comic book. There’s also a subtle introduction of S.H.I.E.L.D. which I believe will play an integral part in the upcoming Marvel films.
Really a combination of two stories – the origin of Iron Man and Stark’s battle with Stane for supremacy – the stories are interwoven rather seamlessly. In many ways, Iron Man reminded me of Batman Begins – not as heavy, mind you, Stark/Iron Man is not borderline psychotic – in the manner that it sets out a plausible universe for its super-hero to reside.
The action sequences are pretty to watch and really without the superb special effects available to directors nowadays, it would be impossible to make super-hero films that look this amazing. Although, I must admit that the ultimate battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger was rather difficult to get into, in the same way that Sam Raimi managed so effectively with the Spidey-Doc Ock spectacular subway clash in Spider-Man 2. But I am quibbling. In a summer blockbuster season that will include Indy 4, Hulk and Hellboy 2, Iron Man has set the bar high for the rest of the competition to scramble to emulate, never mind surpass.
Oh… and Downey Jr is a sheer joy…
Go watch Iron Man and discover why I don’t buy comic books anymore… when super-hero movies are this good, why bother?