(Note: from here on out, reviews will be a bit shorter now that I'm not first writing them for the newspaper. I've graduated, and I'm going to rely on my own personal motivation to keep this blog going. Let's hope it works.)
Marvel's newest, and first independent, effort is both highly conventional and fairly unique. It's probably no surprise, especially if you've read other reviews, that Robert Downey Jr.'s casting as Tony Stark the stroke of genius it was destined to be. That said, without his presence the film would be much more ordinary, and not the standout of its genre that it is. That's not to say there's not some great work being done elsewhere.
Jeff Bridges is probably one of the best comic book movie villains to come along in recent years. There's not a whole lot of depth to his role as it's written, but he makes it so interesting to watch. And Gwyneth Paltrow is just as good as you'd expect her to be in the role. With a name like Pepper Potts, you wouldn't expect much from the character, and while it doesn't quite rise beyond quirky sidekick, it's still great to see her having fun with the role.
As far as the story and script go, it's your average superhero origin story. Jon Favreau's direction is capable enough, but his real triumph is putting together such a solid package all-around. Perhaps it's the character himself that makes the movie work so well. While the sequel will most likely deal with Stark's more colorful flaws, like his alcoholism, this first outing wisely steers clear of such provocative material to allow us to grow to love Tony. His personal revelation is unique as well. Instead of just stepping up to take responsibility for himself, there's a lot more at stake.
Comic book films have entered a holding pattern. While a new renaissance began with X2 and Spider-man and peaked with Batman Begins, most of the films post-Superman Returns have been a bit lackluster. X-men: The Last Stand and Ghost Rider have shown us that the material is sophisticated enough to require an intelligent director to make it work, something that only the Nolans and Singers of the industry have been able to pull off. They've grown in respectability, to be sure, but they're going to need that last extra push to convince everyone that they're just as worthy as other film art. What would happen if Scorsese were to tackle The Flash, or David Lynch were to do Doctor Strange? Only time will tell.