Iron Man is the story of Tony Stark, the self-described “Billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist” who inherited lots of money and a big weapons manufacturing company from his father. Mom and Dad died violently when the rich little genius, who is also super good with tech and building stuff, was a pouty teen, so most of the company was placed in the hands of his dad’s totally responsible partner until he came of age.
I’m not talking about Batman, so shut up. This is Iron Man, and there are actually a few differences. Tony wears armor, not a skin tight bat suit with nipples, saves his broodiness for when the booze wears off, and is not afraid to reveal his identity to everyone he knows, because while highly intelligent, he has the forethought of a hamster. He works on his inventions in a “man cave”, not a literal cave, cause while he’s unbalanced, he is anything but socially isolated. He’s funny, charming, obnoxious, great with insincere party people, and as his story goes on through each film, capable of character growth. It helps when you start at rock bottom.
In the beginning, we see Tony (Robert Downey, Jr.) avoiding another award’s ceremony in his honor by playing at a casino, drinking heavily, and flirting with women. The women naturally fall at his feet, cause he’s rich and handsome and Robert freaking Downey, Jr. Except for one woman, his private secretary Ms. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow and yeah that’s really the character’s name), who is stuck cleaning up his messes including shooing out his one night stands for him in the morning. That definitely falls under “and other duties as assigned”.
Since his company, Stark Industries, is promoting a new giant missile called Jericho he has designed for the U.S. Army, he decides it would be a jaunt to go to Afghanistan to show it off, cause if there’s one thing they like over there, it’s rich white Americans. Though his military friend, Rhodey (Terrence Howard), warns him to stay with more protection, he prefers to ride in the “Fun-vee” as if he’s on a ride at Disneyland, while he entertains the army guys with talk of parties and himself. Guess what’s about to happen; you are never going to guess.
Yup, boom, the jeep is attacked and Tony is blown out – right beside a missile with the name of his own company scrawled upon it. He doesn’t have time to say “irony sucks” before it then blows up and he’s injured again, right in his cold little heart.
He wakes up in a cave filled with terrorists instead of bats. They aren’t very nice terrorists either, but say they’ll let him live if he will only build them that great missile he was advertising earlier. Tony kinda thought that weapon was being built for the U.S. military only, instead of being sold to bad guys. Like who does that?
Luckily, he has help from the mentor-doctor-inventor-you-just-know-is-gonna-die guy, Yinsen – a fellow captor who saw that Tony had shrapnel headed for his heart, so naturally stuck a big electromagnet in his chest. Makes sense to me. They both know the terrorists won’t let them live, so they create an arc reactor to power the magnet to keep the shrapnel from reaching Tony’s heart. Cause they just did, that’s how. Also, instead of building a missile, they start work on a flying suit of weaponized armor out of spare parts. (I guess Tony had just been thinkin’ this up in his spare time and thought, gonna die, why not try it?)
Luckily these terrorists aren’t that perceptive despite the cameras in the cave, so they almost get away with it till the last minute. Yinsen dies helping Tony escape, and Tony flies off in his tin can super armor after burning lots of terrorists with his armor’s fire shooters. Cause he just did, that’s how.
He crash lands in the desert and breaks his suit, but luckily Rhodey soon finds him in a helicopter and takes him home. They just leave the armor bits, I mean, what can be done with spare parts and crap? Tony was deeply affected by nearly getting blown up by his own weapons and getting tortured and forced to hammer stuff while showing off his muscles for three months, so he decides his company should take a new direction and stop selling weapons. This goes over about as well as the head of the NRA saying he now wants to fund global warming research, so lots of people are mad at him, especially his Dad’s old partner and his trusted mentor, Obidiah Stane, who has been running most of the company while Tony partied and played with inventions in his man cave.
Guess who’s gonna be the new bad guy?
Tony builds another way cooler looking suit with a better power supply in secret in his man cave. The only one really supportive of him is Pepper (her real name is Virginia but why would you still go by – nevermind) who likes that he’s not as big of an a-hole since he returned. She takes the old arc thingy and puts it in a nice case saying “Proving Tony Stark has a heart”. That is, she does after having to yank out the old one from his chest (pop!) and help replace it with the new one (and other duties as assigned!) while arguing with him and freaking out simultaneously. She is totally not going to be his love interest.
After finding out he wasn’t invited to his company’s charity event, he actually shows up and dances with Pepper, and she worries that she forgot her deodorant and I just love that about her, and they go to the balcony and almost kiss, but Tony chickens out and goes to the bar where he meets the reporter he slept with in the beginning but forgot about instantly. She has good info though, namely that oh-oh, more of his weapons have been delivered to those terrorists that held him hostage, and are being used to attack his dead doctor mentor pal’s village. Then Tony learns that Obidiah (never trust Jeff Bridges) has been selling his arms to criminals worldwide this whole time, and is now taking over his company. That’s not a very good mentor.
So Tony flies back to Afghanistan in his new shiny armor (bright red and gold for maximum stealth!), and saves the villagers with super cool effects. He gets shot at by military jets on his way back, cause they’re like wtf is that on the radar, but tells pal Rhodey (of course he’s there) who he is, and manages to get home with only a few dozen bullet holes in the armor.
Meanwhile those wacky terrorists (they’re called the 10 Rings, cause they really like Tolkien) gather all those spare armor parts Tony left in the desert, along with his plans, and give them to Obidiah who kills them in gratitude and reverse engineers his own bulky armor suit. Pepper hacks into the company computer and finds out old Obi also wanted the terrorists to kill Tony (he really should have found better terrorists), so she tells an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., an intelligence agency (more on them later on), about that rotten Obidiah jerk.
Since Obidiah’s scientists can build the suit but can’t figure out the arc reactor thingy, he goes to the source, giving Tony a temporary paralytic and yanking his reactor out of his chest. Pop! Ouch. He can’t help gloating about how he no longer has to help the rich brat anymore, and oh yeah, he’s gonna kill Pepper cause he really hates spices. Also she knows about him. Then he leaves Tony alone, cause he’s no smarter than the terrorists.
Despite looking like road kill, Tony drags himself back to the lab once the stuff wears off, takes the old reactor Pepper saved in the award and shoves that back in his chest. Kinda like shoving one of those round pegs in a round hole – you learn it in kindergarten. Former mentor has a more powerful suit since he took his fancy new reactor though, and their fight takes them to the top of Stark Tower, where he beats the crap out of Tony a while (this is to become a recurring theme), until Tony gets Pepper to overload the large arc reactor powering the building (oh yeah arc reactors do that too – with clean energy!) causing an electrical surge that drops old Obi into the exploding reactor. Boom.
The next day Tony holds a press conference where he tells the world he is what the press has dubbed “Iron Man”. Beats buying a pair of glasses.
Iron Man made a lot of money, so Marvel decided Tony still has a long, LONG, way to go to learn to adult, so stay tuned for the sequel, Iron Man II.