‘Iron Man’ Sits Indisputably in Club of Highest-Rated Superhero Movies of All Time

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4/5CHICAGO – Move over, Superman. This lush, high-octane playboy never tasted so good.

Robert Downey Jr. fittingly opens “Iron Man” with a cocktail in hand and all the arrogance in the world. As the story goes, his conceit is indeed respected as Earth is his oyster both for the playing and for the taking. With the American marketing machine in full effect for 2008’s first summer blockbuster, the inaugural one lives up to the buildup.

Iron Man is in the throes of a pitched battle with a determined nemesis in Iron Man
Iron Man is in the throes of a pitched battle with a determined nemesis in “Iron Man”.
Photo credit: Industrial Light & Magic

“Iron Man” has already not only etched itself the mark of the first indisputable blockbuster of 2008 and one of the best-reviewed films so far in 2008 but also one of the highest-rated superhero movies of all time – yes, of all time. The film deserves every million it makes.

Even before he’s Iron Man, Downey Jr. is authentically transformative as the lush, cash-flushed, comedic, all-powerful and all-knowing Tony Stark.

Even those who aren’t fans of the comic series and just enjoy quality entertainment will fall prey to his allure and the blockbuster power of the film in general.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts – Stark’s assistant who keeps him functioning and even remembers his social security number for him – is indeed the subservient, selfless character she’s written to be. Hollywood gives her killer hair, too. Paltrow took the role only after Rachel McAdams turned it down.

Jeff Bridges stars as Obadiah Stane in Iron Man
Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane in “Iron Man”.
Photo credit: Zade Rosenthal

The Chicago-born Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes – a friend to Stark and sometimes even his unknowing enemy – plays his typical supporting role. Only have we seen Howard as a co-lead in the Warner Bros. flop “The Brave One” (opposite Jodie Foster).

As portrayed in the film version of “Iron Man,” Jeff Bridges as co-worker Obadiah Stane – and later Iron Man’s nemesis (the Iron Monger) – is a tough nut to crack.

While the bald head and bushy face worked wonders for his villainous demeanor, his character development got adversely shafted and edited.

You can’t buy his progression from “do what it takes to get the job done and stuff our pockets fat with cash” guy to “I instigated a mutiny against you in your own company” guy to “I am Iron Monger and I crafted a bigger, badder suit to pound you”.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in his battle-scarred Mark III armor in Iron Man
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in his battle-scarred Mark III armor in “Iron Man”.
Photo credit: Zade Rosenthal

You’re never even convinced that Bridges as Stane has the aptitude to steal Stark’s invention, reverse engineer it and spew out his own malevolent model.

Moviegoers will likely overlook and forgive this character transgression in favor of the raw badassness of the film as a whole.

While he’s behind the scenes and is even briefly in a couple, the success of “Iron Man” shouldn’t go without the mention of director Jon Favreau in the same sentence.

Admittedly, I was biting my nails feverishly about whether or not Favreau had it in him. After only directing “Elf” as another notable film, Favreau directing “Iron Man” was a make-or-break proposition. He delivered and it’ll elevate his career in gargantuan proportions.

It should also be noted that Favreau almost didn’t direct “Iron Man”. Instead, he was originally going to direct the 2009 film “Captain America” (2009) as a superhero comedy adventure. With no previous superhero directing experience, Favreau instead chose to direct “Iron Man”. He chose wisely.

StarView our massive, high-resolution “Iron Man” image gallery.

StarMore film reviews from critic Adam Fendelman.

It should also be noted that Quentin Tarantino in Oct. 1999 was approached to write and direct “Iron Man,” which is Marvel’s first self-financed movie.

Favreau describes “Iron Man” as a “kind of independent film espionage thriller crossbreed” and “a Robert Altman-directed ‘Superman’ (1978) with shades of Tom Clancy novels, James Bond films, ‘RoboCop’ (1987) and ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)”. Harkening back to his Altman influence, Favreau often preferred dialogue improvisation.

Interestingly, Downey Jr. this week told hired movie and music gun David Letterman that Favreau avoided CGI effects and shot scenes for real when possible. In addition to delivering a memorable performance in “Love & Sex” in 2000, Favreau was money in “Swingers” in 1996.

“Iron Man” opened on May 2, 2008.

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


© 2008 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com

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