Written by Old Bluffer 4th Jun 2008
Submitted by Iorn Man
When Tony Stark's parents die, close family friend Obadiah Stane is the natural person to take over the running of the weapons corporation Stark Industries, and also mentor young Tony.
He does a fine job of this, and is retained as Tony's right hand man once he comes of age. The partnership does well for many years, with both of them reaping the rewards of the massive amount of blood money their arms deals bring in.
However, any character with the name of "Obadiah" is absolutely certain to be a villain, and his outwardly avuncular personality is soon shown to house a jealous megolamaniac who wants Stark Industries for himself. To this end, he sets in motion the events that cause Stark to become the "Iron Man" - a force for good who uses an armoured exo-skeleton armed with more firepower than the progeny of ED-209 and a Gundam Whore.
Even worse, Stark has announced to the world that his company will no longer be making weapons, which of course sends the stock value plummeting. Obadiah is a crafty b*stard though, and sees how the Iron Man suit (and miniaturised Arc Reactor that powers it) can be the final "golden egg" he can steal from Stark before killing him.
At first he simply orders all of his Boffins to miniaturise the full-size Arc Reactor that they already have full access to. The Chief Boffin finally admits that it is an impossible task though, infuriating Stane.
"Tony Stark managed to make his version in a cave!" he screams.
"Well I'm sorry, but I'm not Tony Stark" says the Chief Boffin, somewhat petulantly.
Obadiah has no choice but to up the stakes, and when Tony flat-out refuses to let him have the technology, he is forced to play dirty. He paralyses Stark with a sonic device Stark invented, and indulges in an Evil Villain Speech.
He smugly informs his victim that he has developed his own Iron Man suit, which is "less conservative" than Stark's. He then removes the Arc Reactor embedded in his chest that is keeping him alive and leaves him for dead, adding that it is a shame that he'll have to kill Stark's PA, Miss Pepper Potts as well.
Pepper is about to indirectly save Stark's life though, as instead of destroying the prototype Mini Arc Reactor that Stark developed in the aforementioned cave, she mounted it in a display labelled "Proof that Tony Stark has a heart". Stark staggers to retrieve it, and is helped out by one of the likeable Skutters that he uses to build his gadgets.
With little time to lose, he suits up and flies off to rescue Pepper - despite his onboard AI computer, Jarvis, warning him that the lower-powered arc reactor isn't really up to the job.
This of course sets the scene for a climactic fight between the weakened Stark and Obadiah - who has, true to his boasting, built a veritable colossus of a suit, transforming himself into the villain known as "Iron Monger".
Fighting on the roof of Stark Industries' giant Arc Reactor, the two titans duke it out. As we'd expect, Iron Man gets mashed by Iron Monger, even though he is shown to have the greater mobility. Trusting in his own superior technology, he flies up as high as his remaining power will allow him, knowing from experience that the ice that forms at high altitude will likely prove the undoing of the inaugral flight of Iron Monger.
"Have you worked out the icing problem?" he asks Stane as they grapple in the stratosphere.
"What icing problem?" responds his old friend, just before his suit shuts down and he tumbles to his doom.
Stark descends to Earth running pretty much "on vapour", believing he has won, but Iron Monger has somehow survived the fall, and the Transformers-esque brawl continues.
Out of power, and with more dents and blown diodes than Marvin the Paranoid Android, Stark still manages to rip out Iron Monger's visual and targeting systems and phones Pepper, to tell her to set the main Arc Reactor to self-destruct.
Obadiah removes his visor and has a final gloat as he revels in his vastly superior firepower (which admittedly he can't aim all that well).
Stark is almost done for, and can't get out of the area to escape the impending blast, which was his preferred plan. He tells Pepper to blow it anyway, which she reluctantly does.
The explosion blows Stark to safety, but Iron Monger's bulk is too massive, and the resulting chain lightning storm finally finishes him.
Old Bluffer's Thoughts
Despite low expectations (I haven't read the comics or seen the cartoon series, so to me this was likely to be a kid's movie about a single Power Ranger blowing stuff up - note I still happily went along though!) Iron Man turned out to be a thoroughly pleasant surprise.
Robert Downie Jr. made the role his own and I warmed to his character within his first few lines. In fact, the script as a whole was unusually witty and subtle. Gwynneth Paltrow was also a constant joy throughout.
Script and characterisation are two of the three things I tend to rant about in my writeups, so we're already onto a good start.
My other bugbear is over-long or too-short pacing, but again, I'm happy to say that in this film it felt about right. There was ample time to enjoy Stark living it up as a playboy, his transformation into Iron Man didn't feel rushed, and the (admittedly predictable) ending wasn't belaboured for so long that I got bored.
We also tend to lament the ascendance of CGI here on moviedeaths.com, but this film is a rare example where I mostly liked the digital effects. The computer displays and technology shown when Stark designs and builds his upgraded suits are outstanding - they're like adverts that German car manufacturers wish they could make. Infinitely complex and gleaming bits of mecha whir and hum into place, and any self-respecting gadget fan will be having wet dreams about owning their own Iron Man suit.
The movement of the suit is also not bad - when Iron Man streaks over the landscape like a missile it looks pretty good. There are also attempts to show momentum and mass, which when not considered make CGI look terrible.
Despite all this though, it's still not quite right, and the final fight in particular again just looks like an arcade game. The suits move too fast and get knocked too far and too easily into the distance. Just for once it would be nice if the effects people could slow things down so that each metallic clash had real honest-to-goodness heft.
Like I say though, it doesn't feel overlong and by this point I'd already had far too much fun to let some weak physics spoil my good mood.
I'm therefore giving this film a solid 7 1/2 out of 10. It would have been an 8 but I'm deducting half a mark due to the lamentable lack of any Black Sabbath played during the film. OK, they played the guitar solo over the first part of the credits but I wanted to hear That riff when Iron Monger came to life dammit!
UPDATE: I am totally gutted now as I've just read on IMDB that by leaving early we missed a post-credits scene featuring Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury (unlike in previous reviews, I'm not joking about this).