It's loud, it's refreshing - Iron Man could be the most faithfully adapted superhero movie of all time. Marvel have delivered a confident and bold first film to their studio's cannon.

Iron Man when Tony Stark takes flight to the sky's in full control of his faithfully adapted red and gold suit, looking way more convincing in the air than the ridiculous amount of money spent by rival studio Warner Brothers on their Superman character two years ago that I began to think - isn't it great to see how far comic book movies have come in the last ten years. Memories have soon began to fade of 20th Century Fox and their rather tepid first attempt at the X-Men franchise, not quite sure how it was going to perform despite some big name casts. They were adamant and Bryan Singer certainly complied - in grounding the film down in reality as much as humanely possible which of course meant a travesty when the suits turned up on screen and they all looked the same. Lame black all around and the characters lost much of the personality that their own individual attire had given them for years in the printed and animated form. Fast forward to 2008, comic books have never been this popular for such a long time - adults are coming back to the medium and it's no doubt in some part due to this terrific cinematic movement that has ruled this decade of film. By the screening I saw tonight folks - we have come an extremely long way. Iron Man will rival Spider-Man 2 as the most faithfully adapted superhero film of all time. Everything is here that fans of the comic have come to enjoy. The perfectly cast (not just because of his off screen persona... but also how this has played into and often heightened his on screen roles), cocky, womanising, playful, smart, witty and insanely watchable Robert Downey Jr is a revelation as billionaire playboy Tony Stark who believes he is promoting peace by creating weapons which stroke fear into the rest of the world because they only needed to be fired once to cause ultimate destruction and are not created to be left on the shelf. "Worked pretty well so far" for the U.S. Stark says - we have a comic book movie here with some political intentions on it's mind and one that is well aware of it's country's reputation in the world. Iron Man, maybe in part down to it's older and more experienced cast like a certain Batman Begins - feels much more adult than any Marvel superhero that has so far made into on screen with the possible exception of The Punisher which went a little too dark. It's attempt at socio-political issues (which is actually something extremely faithful to Stan Lee's original vision) is commended and the plot that isn't necessarily about saving the world but has more to do with the war on terror - actually makes a refreshing change. As does a romance between a superhero and the main female lead which actually has sparks. Their chemistry is super red hot - matching Gwyneth Paltrow's fine hairdo as loyal assistant Pepper Potts. I actually hated her casting the first time it was mentioned but to her credit, she gives her most energetic and enjoyable performance in years. You feel something for them here and you care about their relationship, though her part may be slightly under-written. As was Terrence Howard's role as good pal Jim Rhodes - who in this movie acts as the go between for Stark and U.S. military, allowing him to get away with things normal people just won't be able to do. More of him next time would be great but it seems like his character is in it for the long haul. As for the villain, I enjoyed much of what Jeff Bridges did when he was playing the warm-hearted friend and mentor to Tony and as we have seen in the past he makes a terrific bad guy but as soon as he puts on the suit he kinda bores ya. But he's a good first villain - similar kind of arc to Liam Neeson's part in Begins and although hardly memorable - it is difficult to stand above this film's lead. So it's pretty kick ass over all. The action sequences for the most part are terrific - it manages to fulfil all the summer blockbuster criteria of big explosions, gadgets and the like with the special effects staying extremely high with very little moments of disappointment. Iron Man is the movie Michael Bay tried or maybe should have tried a lot harder to make with the Transformers. It's well written, doesn't fully insult your intelligence, it's lauded with great jokes and one-liners but not the "let's creep around so the parents can't see us" kind and is made by a director who understands this material - and knows exactly what he is doing. Director Jon Favreau who is really making a big step up from his usual fare here (Elf, Zathura, Swingers) directs his first big-budget action vehicle and does it very well and he should be extremely proud of his work here. There's more talented and experienced directors who have attempted this genre and haven't been as successful as Favreau. His love for the character and his undeniable high production values and commitment in creating a unique and interesting feel for Tony Stark and his world is very much to the film's huge benefit. He knows what the fans want and for the most part he has delivered it. There are plenty of problems to be hard here for sure. As is beginning to become the norm with comic book movies, the third act is absolutely terrible. It feels majorly rushed, never seems to run at a coherent pace and when the big battle comes at the end you have dialogue and awkwardness which sometimes suggests why a literal adaptation of a comic book page is not the way to go. I think this will come apparent from more frequent viewings but 2/3rd's of the flick are great. 85% of the movie rules. It was a brave move when Marvel decided to stop letting other studio's play with their characters and to start fully financing the movies themselves but it has paid off big time here. This is a proper comic book film which is one of the best to watch as an adult. There's so much potential for this series of films and the universe Marvel is creating if they continue making films as loud and brass as this. This is very much a Robert Downey Jr vehicle and it's great to see him fully blown into the spotlight here. This is an extremely bold and confident start from Marvel and I'm very much excited to see where this is taken. We get hints to lots of future things here... including mentions of a certain organisation and maybe next time we shall get a look at War Machine. "Next time baby, next time" says Jim Rhodes 2/3rd's into the movie. And I would be happy to see it. Bring on the sequel!

rating: 3.5


Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.