After being kidnapped and seeing first-hand that his weapons manufacturer has been secretly selling its products to terrorists, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) makes his way home thanks to a new weapon suit design and decides to fix the problem. But his partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), has plans of his own and begins to work against Stark. The two go head-to-head as Tony uses his suit to fight terrorism and Stane uses his money to thwart his efforts.
When I first saw this movie, I really didn’t care for it. I think that might have been because it was so popular, and I went through this phase where I acted very negative and cynical against movies I didn’t want to like. Luckily I’m over that now and I can honestly say that I had a blast watching this a second time around. Tony Stark is a great character, acting as almost a direct contrast to DC’s Batman. He’s trying to do what’s right and he’s doing it the way he’s always done everything in his life: As flamboyantly and publicly as possible. There’s a lot of legitimate tension in action scenes as they’ve built up such a likable character that you hate watching him have to go through the amount of hardship he puts himself through.
The rest of the characters serve their purposes but ultimately only set up for the already announced continuation of the franchise. I like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) for the purpose she serves, a moral grounding and contrast for Tony, and it’s nice to see that Tony has one friend who will stick with him through anything. That’s not to count out Rhodey (Terrence Howard), but he does quarrel with Tony quite a bit. Stane isn’t a very developed character but Jeff Bridges makes him one of the most compelling aspects of the film. He really sells him as a dirty lowlife and you really get a sense that this guy is just pure evil.
Second only to Stark himself are the action sequences, which are all very well thought-out and meticulously put into effect. They’re very close and personal, while still allowing the audience to see exactly what’s going on. They’re well-polished, big, loud and fully satisfying. They’re also well-paced and spread out throughout the movie, giving you time to breath but never letting you get bored. When there isn’t flying and explosions going on, it stays witty and entertaining, while also being appropriately moody and dramatic. It actually feels like it could have been released later in the summer and been more effective (though that wasn’t going to happen with The Dark Knight taking that spot that year).
If you’re getting ready for The Avengers this summer, there’s no better place to start than the beginning. And if you’re just looking for a good action flick, this is a good place to go as well.