Iron man was one of the first comics I ever collected. I was only allowed to collect three at a time and along with Alpha Flight (Canadian superhero team!) and Transformers, Tony Stark always found a place in my collection. I loved the adventure aspect to the stories that had a dash of esponiage to them as well. As a James Bond fan, Stark always came across to me as essentially the same guy but with a ridiculously cool set of armour.
I started collecting Iron Man with issue 195, which takes place right before the huge Iron Man 200 which saw Tony get new armour and his battle with Ironmonger on which the first Iron Man movie was based. It's been a while since I have read Iron Man in comic form though. If I remember right my discerning tastes saw the art going downhill and I jumped ship. I have looked in on Tony from time to time but never as intensely as I did as a kid.
For me, the Iron Man movies are intensely nostalgic. As a kid I fantasized about how amazing an X-Men movie would be, or a Spider-Man movie, or an IRON MAN MOVIE! I was excited when I heard production was moving forward on the first one. When Jon Favreau came on board as director I was really stoked because he is a character driven director first which tells me the powers that be are taking the movie seriously and then they cast Robert Downey Jr. and my head nearly exploded. In my mind there has never been a more perfect actor for a part than this. Robert Downey Jr. has the right attitude and in real life, much like Stark, treads on the edge of addiction with a sense of arrogance and narcissism that somehow makes him charming and irresistible at the same time. To top it off Jeff Bridges was playing the bad guy! My suspicions were correct as Iron Man arrived in theatres and I loved every minute of it. I saw it twice the first week of release (which is rare for me). They captured the character perfectly, the origin story was bang on and surprisingly close to the original (in the comic he was in Korea which was a hotbed when then comic was created as opposed to Afghanistan where he was in the film), and the action was amazing. I wasn't a huge fan of the armour design, but hey it could have been worse. The icing on the cake was the scene at the end of the credits in which we meet Nick Fury and realize that something much bigger might be going on here.
Then came Iron Man 2. Not surprising considering how crazy popular the first one was (can I say its nice to know that I am not alone in my geek love for Tony Stark?) and I am glad to say I enjoyed this one even more. The biggest reason is that this one feels like it is taking place in a bigger comic universe. There are a ton of references to other characters (don't worry, you don't have to know them all to enjoy the movie) like Captain America's shield, and another one that is a cool surprise at the end of the credits. New concepts are introduced like the War Machine armour worn by Rhodes (played well by Terrence Howard in the first one, and better by Don Cheadle in the second) and Justin Hammer, a rival arms dealer. Additionally the trademark suitcase armour that is so loved from the comics makes an AWESOME appearance in the movie.
There was one thing that confused the heck out of me when I was reading about the development of Iron Man 2. Whiplash. Whiplash sucks. He has always sucked. In the comic he is one of the weakest villains in Iron Man's respectable rogues gallery (he is one of the few in the Marvel Comics Universe who can claim a good rogues gallery). I HATE Whiplash. When I heard he was going to be the bad guy in the next movie I would have spewed milk out my nose had I been drinking it at the time. Then they cast Mickey Rourke. The comeback king who must have gotten a best agent in Hollywood based on how the guy's career has suddenly come to life. He was absolutely amazing in the Wrestler so I was heartened to hear he would be playing the part. Still, WHIPLASH!??!? As it turns out they took a few more liberties with character this time round which is a good thing in my mind because it brought a lot of elements together very well.
Iron Man 2 opens to Tony Stark facing multiple threats. After coming out as Iron Man at the end of the first movie the industrialist is having to answer for his armour to congress while squaring off against sharks like Justin Hammer who are all trying to imitate his new weapon. Congress is demanding he hand the armour over to them while Tony eats up the limelight as he has successfully privatized world peace. It raises some interesting questions for sure. What would happen if a guy created some crazy piece of advanced technology and was suddenly able to beat anyone on the planet? It is for this reason that Iron Man 2 has a cold war feel to it. Everyone is a little bit scared about what the other guy will do. Then Rourke's Ivan Vanko enters into the picture. Vanko's father helped Tony's father develop some of the tech we know from the first movie, namely the arc reactor that fuels Stark Industries and Iron Man himself. Vanko's father tried to sell the secrets to the enemy and ended up sent back to Russia to languish and eventually die in exile. Ivan is no slouch in the physics department and develops an arc reactor similar to Tony's and attaches "whips" to the which unleash the energy so they can cut through pretty much anything… race cars… Tony Stark…
Vanko comes to claim his birthright from Stark, teams up with Hammer who really wants to have the Iron Man armour… yada yada yada Iron Man saves the day. Seriously though, there is a lot going on in this movie that is good. Tony's relationship with Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow as a redhead is crazy attractive), Tony's relationship with Rhodes which is complicated by Rhodes' duties to his government, and the overarching conflict. There were a few things I found to be a bit of a cheat and made for weak story telling. First, Tony's mini arc reactor is killing him (think radiation poisioning) and he only has days to live which leads him on a self-destructive binge. This doesn't sound so bad but when you see it on screen it feel shoehorned in there. Of course a solution is found and everything turns out OK which certainly doesn't help that aspect of a mystery created for a mystery's sake. Second, the question must have come up as to how to top Tony's fight with Ironmonger in the first one, to which someone likely responded, "Simple, add more of them!" Well, not exactly but it does come across that way as Iron Man and War Machine (who is so awesome onscreen its not even funny) face off against a bunch of Hammer's drones and finally against Vanko who now has an armour of his own. It works fine, but they have definitely exhausted the armoured guy vs. armoured guy route for sure. It makes for good fights but it does nothing to make you feel like Stark is really at risk. You know Iron Man is going to live through this, but IM2 failed to make me think the guy might be hurt or damaged from the battle.
It is a good movie (minor griped aside) and certainly a great start to the summer. It is worth seeing in the theatre for sure. Its nice to know that at my age childhood dreams are still coming true.