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Iron Man (2008)


So, the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU, kids) popped up on Steve’s list of things to watch before the surgeons have plugged my remaining orifices. Not for any dark reason, you understand. More because Lockdown 74 was getting the better of old Jack, here, and I needed to watch something where an unbelievably arrogant man is chastened by even worse humans whilst not quite being hassled for his attitude to women…something very 2008. Iron Man.

Oh, sod the portentousness. This is terrific fun. Robert Downey Junior gives off recovery-vim and the weird facial hair of the super-rich with absolute style: his Tony Stark. He glowers it out with louche abandon, selling weapons in distant deserts and showing off to the soldiers transporting him before – BANG! Plot point magnificence kills his new buddies, wrecks his motorcade and has him in the hands of supposed terrorists in a cave.

And he’s damaged. And a decade-long joke about his heartlessness is made manifest with an electro-magnet and hope and a new fellow-captive-cum-friend, Doctor Yinsen (the instantly backs-to-the-wall smart buddily-buddish Shaun Toub). Downey Jr is sorely tested: body horror, hostage video threats, and a demand to build a missile. Lucky his captors are…sluggish in the thinking department, cos they let Stark and Yinsen slap together enough metal to make a clunky iron man suit. The bad guys twig just as Downey dons the thing and stomps like Ellen Ripley fending off a spitty nut job in a rubber alien coat.

Things happen. He loses a friend and face-plants a lot of sand and then pitches up back home at the company he inherited from his Dad. For yes, there are Dad issues at play in Stark’s dickishness. Of course; but sneer not, for the glossiness is so smooth you can drink down this film.

And then it all goes a bit inventive. Stark makes a better suit, only slowly and with some comedy thrusting. And he flirts with his P.A., Pepper Potts, the disturbingly traditional Gwyneth Paltrow in a not-bothering-to-hide-itself romcom relationship waiting for all those 2008-ily objectified beauties to piss off.

And then there’s the dull crump of a mis-step. Stark’s Dad’s business buddy, Obadiah Stane (birth name: “I’m-the-Baddie Mwahahahahaha”) grouches, grumbles and manipulates his way to making Downey look sympathetic. Ok, that’s unfair, Downey’s Stark is clearly affected by what’s happened, and the role played by himself and his Dad’s arms manufacturing firm… his firm…. but…

Jeff Bridges is Obadiah. The man even brings subtle to a roaring caricature, so old Jack here liked him. He’s fun and funny and almost surrounds Downey in a Rooster Cogburn and the Kid kind of way. Mighty, bluff and so obviously out for a battling suit of his own. He’s also the nearest the film gets to a sensitive portrayal of an oldster, which is not at all. So, this doesn’t help Stark resolve his Daddy issues, but substitutes them with a crazed beast. And they should always be fought. Just ask Ripley.

Young Steve was right. Iron Man is what old Jack needed the week they extended lockdown. It’s a bit silly, never makes you wonder whether the title is about Downey’s soul, basks in his whizzo suit and rocket fuelled feet, and shouldn’t be pulled apart. It’s a laugh, a slick one, and lays effective foundations for a franchise worth a marathon run-through in every care home in the land.

Eventually, some of the old folk will be heroes. Well, Douglas and Pfeiffer, but that’s a while away…

P.S. Downey is terrific.

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