"Iron Man" is sheer action-adventure brilliance. It lacks the character depth and emotional integrity of "Spider-Man 2", but is certainly far and away, a strong second in the recent Marvel comic-to-film boom. Nearly every aspect of the film is perfect. The action is directed with a surprisingly focused flair from director Favreau. The story is coherent and surprisingly true to the original comics. Most importantly, Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark, perhaps more suited to his role than any actor cast as a superhero prior - Nicolas Cage as "Ghost Rider"? Fuck off…
I still can't quite wrap my head around how Jon Favreau ended up directing the film. I doubt his work on "Zathura", would be strong enough evidence that he could helm the $135 million "Iron Man". Regardless, he did a damn fine job. The direction is impeccable, as the film is so fast paced it felt like I had only sat through an hour long television episode when the film reached the end of its 126 minute runtime. Favreau also oversaw the script production choosing to shelf the definitive Iron Man villain, 'The Mandarin,' in favour of Obadiah Stane's ‘Iron Monger'. A wise choice, as 'The Mandarin' would have taken something away from the films somewhat surprising credibility. The characters are just people in suits, no super powers, no radioactive spiders, no gamma rays… just men in suits using their intelligence, and technology to assist them in their cause, be it good or evil. This makes for a more believable and intelligent film than many other recent superhero movies.
Robert Downey Jr. has to be one of the most underrated actors working today. The man has an undeniable charisma, and just reeks of coolness. Yet no one gives him the credit he deserves, perhaps due to his wealth of well-documented personal problems. It's too bad, because he alone can make a bad movie watchable, and an average movie far better than it deserves to be. He imbues Tony Stark with a sarcastic charm that could have crippled the character in the hands of many other actors. Stark never seems less than charming, and his newfound perspective on protecting the population from the very technologies he pioneered is surprisingly credible. While he's not necessarily the most well-rounded character in the Marvel film universe, he's certainly the most likable and entertaining in his secret identity.
With the exception of the second "Spider-Man" film, "Iron Man" is the best marvel adaptation to date, and a strong first outing for Marvel's new production company. It should come as no surprise that a sequel to "Iron Man" is slated for 2010, after the film's tremendous opening weekend. And a sequel is welcome, provided the same team is assembled for the second film. That being said, the trend of adapting superhero movies is in danger of potentially growing tiresome. Amidst the Iron Mans and the Spider Men, there are a number of superhero movies on the horizon that simply won't translate well to film… The Submariner, Thor, and of course Ant-Man (which still has potential thanks to Edgar Wright being attached to direct). Enjoy the good ones, friends, cause they're going to get a whole lot worse.