Marvel Movie Madness! Part 30: Iron Man

by | July 15, 2011 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.


Part 30: Iron Man (2008, 94% @ 234 reviews)

Directed by Jon Faverau, starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow

Tim: Hands down, Iron Man is my favorite Marvel movie. For me, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark — a cross between Steve Jobs and James Bond — is pitch-perfect. He’s a charming rogue with a conscience, someone who you can relate to and dream of being. (And unlike most wiseacre heroes, Tony Stark’s witty bon mots seem to come more from the mouth of someone who’s supremely self-confident — not a screenwriter.) Downey’s performance is the highlight, but Iron Man gets just about everything else right as well. Too many blockbusters feel the need to throw everything at the screen in clumps, but Iron Man is remarkably well-paced; it gives the story and its characters room to breathe, and its (admittedly awesome) special effects never overwhelm the narrative. The action sequences are stupendous, but never arbitrary — this is a movie that trusts the audience will stay entertained without resorting to explosions every five minutes.

A lot of filmmakers seemed hamstrung by the wars in the Middle East, but Iron Man is one of the few films that successfully asked important questions about American foreign policy without resorting to didacticism or bludgeoning the audience with agitprop. At heart, Iron Man is the tale of a man who seems to really question his place in the world and use his energy and intellect to make things right. I love the scene where Tony is watching a news documentary on a terrorized Afghan village and immediately springs into action; who hasn’t been weighted down by the struggles of decent people around the world? Who hasn’t wished they could do something — anything — to make a difference? Fortunately, Iron Man leavens its geo-political commentary with plenty of good humor and some terrific musical cues (AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized”). It all adds up to a terrific good time, one of the best comic book adaptations ever.


Alex: 2008 was my favorite year for comic book movies. I think many would incline to agree. By then, the comic book movie industry was in full steam — we’ve been watching a lot of superhero movies, with entire trilogies opened and closed. I look back in 2008 with particular fondness since, as the comic book movie threatened to fall into a pattern, two movies released which foresaw two different visions for the future of the genre: The Dark Knight (serious and elegant) and Iron Man (bright and zippy), with both telling their type of story to maximum effect.

The Iron Man movies challenge themselves to get by on the least amount of action possible, driving instead on its high-tech world and sheer cast charisma, especially and obviously Robert Downey Jr. I like Iron Man as middle age wish fulfillment cinema: There’s something joyous in watching a dude (albeit a millionaire genius dude) come to the realization that, yes, he can fit into this world as a superhero. The action scenes exhibit a cool restraint, avoiding the showy flash that would obscure Iron Man’s key simple fact: underneath all the armor is just a man who at last discovers his sense of peace and justice.

And the ending — “I am Iron Man” — is perfection.


Jeff: I think we’re all at least a little ambivalent about the way Hollywood’s gotten drunk on special effects over the last 10 to 15 years or so, but Iron Man is a great example of a movie that couldn’t have been made before the CGI invasion. And we all would have been poorer for it — this is a funny, exciting, effortlessly entertaining burst of superhero action.

Plenty of people had their doubts about Iron Man going in, and for good reason — Tony Stark has been a Marvel keystone for decades, but he was never really absorbed into pop culture the way Spider-Man, Superman, or Batman were, and on top of that, Iron Man doesn’t have the most cinema-ready villains. But as you pointed out, Alex, Iron Man is less dependent on big action set pieces than it is on human drama — and it’s carried by an absolutely stellar cast.

More Marvel Movie Madness:

Tag Cloud

Sundance Now CBS All Access DirecTV Spring TV Bravo The CW dceu talk show TruTV Emmys crime drama American Society of Cinematographers El Rey psycho VICE VH1 HBO Oscars Rom-Com Grammys IFC Cosplay Teen 2016 Showtime Winter TV Mindy Kaling Super Bowl medical drama TLC BBC America IFC Films DC streaming service Paramount Network TCM zombies Netflix APB aliens Photos Star Trek Pirates sports hist Winners FOX biography SXSW Drama Kids & Family Britbox finale golden globes Marathons Best and Worst USA Network romance thriller Calendar Shondaland AMC Star Wars TIFF MTV transformers travel Esquire Infographic historical drama ratings Music Video Games CBS cults ABC Family zombie Pop Musicals ITV Extras sitcom 2015 LGBTQ Ellie Kemper Disney Channel Nominations RT History E! Western Trailer Paramount based on movie USA TCA DC Universe TV Podcast dc political drama Watching Series Reality war SDCC Set visit Mary Tyler Moore See It Skip It technology BBC YouTube Red Disney X-Men Amazon Spike what to watch robots Year in Review Rock Lionsgate Toys Warner Bros. Summer WGN Schedule Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comiccon FXX ESPN science fiction Holidays cops Writers Guild of America 007 Hulu PBS TV Land Pixar composers binge President Thanksgiving dramedy crossover Acorn TV Crackle Valentine's Day TBS 21st Century Fox vampires GLAAD The Arrangement Nat Geo Ghostbusters Tomatazos diversity Awards Premiere Dates spy thriller BET TNT Comedy Red Carpet Musical Fantasy docudrama DC Comics Cartoon Network YA cooking Masterpiece Interview Fox News singing competition History FX SundanceTV 20th Century Fox CMT First Look Sony Pictures Superheroes social media Martial Arts GoT Starz harry potter Syfy Rocky crime thriller Character Guide Mystery Creative Arts Emmys Tumblr Christmas Universal Adult Swim crime Trivia 2017 Marvel justice league cats cinemax Fall TV TCA 2017 Certified Fresh Lucasfilm police drama Horror Country Dark Horse Comics Nickelodeon supernatural PaleyFest E3 unscripted Comedy Central Logo boxoffice Sneak Peek Animation NBC A&E 24 frames OWN 45 Comic Book MSNBC serial killer Box Office Election National Geographic Freeform Lifetime Polls and Games GIFs Food Network Superheroe festivals Sundance Action Sci-Fi Reality Competition NYCC politics CW Seed Countdown CNN discovery Biopics Opinion ABC period drama adventure