[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0089TNZ2E][/pullquote] In the summer of 2008, a Marvel blockbuster took huge returns at the box office and announced the arrival of one of Hollywood’s most notorious ˜bad boys’ back on the scene. Iron Man forms part of Marvel comics The Avengers that includes build-up in other Marvel films like The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. But more importantly, it was the full stop in a story of Robert Downey Jr.s that started in 1999 as he struggled to cope with substance abuse issues and various run-ins with the police. What better man is suited therefore to play Tony Stark, a man hailed as a genius from a young age, whose ego leads him into trouble.
The story of Robert Downey Jr’s relationship with drugs, alcohol and success is one of the most interesting Hollywoodstories in recent years. Hailed as an actor with a load of potential after brief appearances in films like Weird Science and Air America, he got the break of a lifetime by being cast in the lead of Chaplin. Unfortunately a series of arrests relating to drug and alcohol abuse followed and he was in and out of prison from 1999 to 2003.
He failed to let his substance abuse issues hamper his work and he continued to stay in the public spotlight throughout, including a performance in Ally McBeal and a video for the Elton John song I Want Love. In 2004, Downey Jr. was released and set about trying to resurrect his career. He was praised for his roles in Good Night, and Good Luck, A Scanner Darkly and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, but in 2008 his big break surfaced as he was chosen to play billionaire playboy Tony Stark in Marvel films summer blockbuster, Iron Man.
Stark Industries is a major military weapons manufacturer, headed by flamboyant genius Tony Stark (Downey Jr.). Along with his fathers old partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) and his personal assistant Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark develops the Jericho missle. On a trip to Afghanistan to show off the Jericho, Stark is attacked and captured by a terrorist group called 10 Rings. He is forced to build weapons for the group, but secretly works on a suit of powered mechanical armour that he uses to escape, but is shocked to find that Stane has taken control of the company and doesn’t want to relinquish it to Stark.
Directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man was a monster commercial success, taking over $585m at the box office. Aimed at the teenage male demographic, it relied heavily on a solid performance by Downey Jr. as Stark, and he delivered. More so than any other comic book film lead, Downey Jr. throws himself into the character of the billionaire, playboy and philanthropist. Zinging one-liners throughout and being absolutely magnetic in the process, one of the key highlights is his chemistry with Paltrew’s Potts. The two bicker as their relationship simmers and pops throughout and while not a standard romantic relationship, it brings enough funny interchanges to make it a convincing and entertaining relationship.
The action scenes are handled reasonably well by Favreau, although the ˜in-the-suit’ shot of Downey Jr. is a little off-putting. It’s a shame that the film does not have enough juice to last the full 126 minutes, and the final act suffers heavily because of this, leading to a limp and disappointing final battle. However, Iron Man was never going to be a serious work like Batman Begins, or an anarchic anti-comic book like V for Vendetta.
It’s a formulaic superhero film, but it excels within the confines of the plot. In fact the biggest risk Iron Man takes is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as its lead. A risk that more than succeeds.