What started this journey off for so many has changed rather rapidly. Or, rather, it has stayed much the same as the content around it has improved, devolved, and everything in-between. What a rocky road. Indeed. Iron Man started it all, but at least we get off on the right foot. That is, perhaps, the most startling thing of all upon returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There was a wave of shock, followed by an understanding. A breaking of the bread and an offering of peace rushed over me, mellowing me out to no end. Not even the highest quality alcohol could have relaxed me this much, but mainly it is due to loosening my grip on fear and pretention, than anything of overwhelming, exceptional quality. Regardless of why or how, Iron Man is somewhat good.
Robert Downey Jr. is beyond likeable. He transcends the quality expected of him and, quite genuinely, revels in this Playboy attire and smug aura. “Peace? Yeah, I love peace. I’d be out of a job with peace.” On and on it goes, and with relatively decent results. There is a smattering of irony to his performance throughout. The reason for his translation to heroic saviour of the world is through his own misgivings, found in his past. These are, to some degree, handled rather well and with a solid enough interest. It is never expressed as anything passionate, but it is nice to see it included. Jon Favreau’s direction is exceptional as ever, he has a knack for big blockbusters such as this. Placing himself right next to Stark as Happy Hogan is a decent casting choice as well as a tremendous way of keeping yourself in the cheque book of Marvel for over a decade. Masterful decision making and his pacing serves well for the early moments of the film and inevitable resentment building up between Stark and Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).
Within fifteen minutes, we are given everything we need to know about these characters, and the benefit of later instalments can do very little to expand or improve upon them. Stark mellows out over time, but he does so in this film and subsequent continuations. Here is where the character hits his pique and falls to the floor. We are given a ten-year arc in two hours. It works for Iron Man, and it is the open and shut style of filmmaking that those who shun open ends are now actively lambasting. Remember El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie? Sure you do. It is the same issue there as the Marvel brand deal with now. The inability for openness and mystery, everything must now be spelt out to the letter.
Has Iron Man aged well? Not particularly, but it has the crumbling qualities of the decade. Back in Black opening any film with such provocative, pro-American heroism is, inevitably, going to age rather poorly. But it has such a strange, endearing quality to it. A shot to the arm of the times gone by, and how far we have come not just as a movie-going audience, but as a people. Let us hope we never go back to these means, although there is no harm in sticking the rose-tinted glasses on from time to time. Even an old stick-in-the-mud like me can enjoy himself from time to time with something that isn’t pretentious art-house nonsense. I’ve been told I do that all too much. Iron Man, then, is a Hollywood pleasure. A modern blockbuster with the gusto necessary to bring about strong characters and interesting performances. But not much more.