I should put a ***spoiler warning*** at the start of this post, but really, I'm like the last person on earth to see Iron Man, so come on. But unlike Spider-Man 3, where I felt the that the movie was unfairly maligned, Iron Man was every bit as fantastically awesome as I had been told. Saw it last night, and I'm still buzzing.
Unlike The Dark Knight, which I thought was a film that transcended its genre (whatever that means) to invite comparisons to works like The French Connection, Silence of the Lambs and Heat, this is very much a "comic book movie" - and one of the best in the history of superhero films to date. Tony Stark shares some similarities with Bruce Wayne (both millionaire playboys with toys, both have snide butlers Alfred and the AI Jarvis, and both butlers even make quips about their employers' "subtle" taste in sports cars), but the films really have nothing in common beyond these superficials.
What Iron Man does have a lot in common with, oddly, is The Incredible Hulk. Now, I've only seen Hulk without sound - the woman in the seat in the aisle in front of me coming back from Calgary was watching it, while her husband/partner/boyfriend was watching Hancock - but I saw the whole film that way, and my screenwriting mentor Dan Deckeralways maintained that a good movie script could be understood sans sound anyway. So, Hulk without sound goes something like this: Bruce Banner on the run, captured by military. Experiments. Hulk gets loose. Bad guy gets formula. Bad guy becomes bigger, meaner Bad-Hulk. Military must rely on Hulk to stop Bad Hulk. And Iron Man (with or without sound), goes like this: Tony Stark captured, builds prototype suit, escapes, bad guy gets old suit and makes bigger, meaner Iron Man suit. Military/government agency must rely on Iron Man to stop Bad Iron Man.
Both films are pretty plot light. Both only have one fight between the good and bad guys. Both films have the protagonist mostly cleaning up their own mess (prompting me to wonder how the press knew so much about this Iron Man "superhero" at the end). In The Incredible Hulk's case, I was astounded at how long it took Hulk to appear, how little he did, and how Hulk and Bad Hulk only mixed it up once. I expected, at the least, for Hulk to get his ass kicked the first time, then have to go away and nurse his wounds, before coming back, Rocky-style, to tear Bad Hulk a new one.
But in the case of Iron Man, this simple, mostly "set up" plot is layered with incredible characters, fantastic (and snappy/fast!) dialog, and absolutely inspired casting. This film moves! I came out of it wanting to break the sound barrier myself, and told my wife it was the Best. Marvel. Film. Ever. After the andrenalin wore off, I'd have to say its nowhere near as narratively complex as either Spider-Man 2 or X-Men 2, and they are both probably superior stories. But this is about as much fun as you can have with a superhero movie that IS a superhero movie (see how I excepted Dark Knight?), and I just totally loved it. Can't wait for the sequel! Can't wait for the Avengers. Loved it.
(And that after the credit sequence? Awesome!)