Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrance Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow. Just looking at the names and talent involved you have to think that Iron Man was going to be a huge success for the superhero genre.
Iron Man, if you didn't know, tells the rather moralistic tale of Tony Stark. He starts the story as the head of a huge weapons development company believing that he's developing weapons in order to prevent wars. However while he's in Afghanistan demonstrating a new missile system to the American Army his convoy is attacked, he's kidnapped, and a group force him to build a new missile system just for them.
It's during this time that he takes a good look at himself and discovers what his weapons really were doing, and he takes the time to develop the first Iron Man suit to aide his escape.
This he does, and when he returns to America he turns the company around and develops the next version of the suit. Meanwhile someone in the company is well aware what they have been selling, and to whom, and wants to keep doing so at whatever cost.
Iron Man was much lighter than I had expected. I did realise that it would be humorous, but the overall weight of the film was lighter than I had thought, even moments such as Tony Stark understanding the effect of his weapons on real people.
This wasn't a bad thing, but it does make this a distinctly different feeling superhero film from the much darker Batman series. It also meant that Robert Downey Jr. didn't have a large amount to sink his teeth into with the character, and for such a strong character actor it did feel as though he could have given Stark much more depth.
Yet if we're to remember that this is an opening film for a superhero franchise, which typically get overpowered with character creations, you have to admit that it does a superb job of balancing bringing the character to the film audience and providing an entertaining and exciting film around it.
All that said, I would have liked to have seen a little more depth and real world conflict come to the Stark character as well as exploring his relationships with those around them a little deeper, but I would imagine that this is something that will be explored now that the character has been brought to the audience.
Downey Jr. is excellent in the role though and revels in it. It's fair to say that all the casting is superb, but Downey Jr. really shines as Stark and seems to be really enjoying the more comical side of the character as well as taking to the action side. After watching the film it's hard to imagine anyone else in the lead role, firing the one liners and carrying the confident stagger through the early stages, showing the doubt and uncertainty once his character has his moment of realisation and coping with the effects and the physicality of the role.
Jeff Bridges is also a bit of a surprise in the role, he brings a great strength and levity to the role, making you completely believe in his ruthlessness and plays really well both with and against Robert Downey Jr.
The chemistry between Downey Jr. and Gwenyth Paltrow is also strong, and once again a pairing of actors that you wouldn't first think of in a superhero film such as this, and yet when they are on screen together as their characters they are perfect.
As I said before these relationships are never explored too deeply, but the stage is set for future installments in the franchise and these are pretty well set-up and explored considering that this is the opening film in a franchise for a character never introduced before on film.
There's a great balance of reality and effects in the film and one of the great strengths is that the effects never take over from the story and the reality within the story. The reality doesn't just mean practical effects and real props and locations either, but relationships, reactions, world events, and so on. All of this helps make the fantastical seem less so.
Another thing that helps bring this back from feeling like a fantasy superhero film is the comedy and the self depreciation the story has for itself. There are a fair amount of comic moments within lines between characters or the way Stark looks at the world, and these feel more real and written well they are identifiable and rather more adult than our traditional wise cracking superheroes.
The writing on the whole script is very good, and again it's that concentration on the reality side in the characters, relationships and the world around them that helps to keep this more grounded than most superhero tales, yet at times the plot does feel like it's ticking the boxes and going through the expected motions without a great deal of surprise or tension from the audience.
For a great deal of the second half that's how I felt about the development. You know what's happening with the conflicting relationship of the two lead characters, you know that one will complete his project bigger and better, that they will meet for the ultimate fight, that Stark will be overpowered and that he will fight back and triumph.
Yes some of you may think that's a bit too close to being a spoiler, but if you've ever seen any superhero film, or indeed action film that pits one against one, then you'll know exactly what to expect and it doesn't disappoint.
While this isn't exactly badly done, in fact it's done well and it's entertaining, I never felt real suspense, tension or fear for the character in that latter half. Again I felt that there could have been some more depth and power in the story.
Still, all said, for me it was rivaling Spider-Man in the superhero film charts, and although it wasn't reaching the heights of Batman it was most certainly a strong contender for second place. The lightness and lack of depth that I've talked about could well be attributed to the fact that this is the first film outing for the character, and we may well see more of that in a second film, if there ever is one with the same cast and key crew.
I certainly hope there is, and that we get the chance to see something a bit more from Tony Stark.