Monday, May 12, 2008

Iron Man (2008)

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The past decade has provided far too many superhero movies, most of which come and go through the box office without being noticed and some of which are the top box office earners year after year. Rarely do the box office numbers correlate to a worthwhile movie experience, but Iron Man is the rare exception. Despite having the flaws that are almost required of comic-superhero adaptations, Iron Man is extremely entertaining, combining humor, action, special effects, and actual morals. One needs to look no further than the people involved to understand how Iron Man went from an assumed Hollywood trash flick to the biggest and best reviewed film of 2008 so far. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Starks and is Iron Man and may be the best thing that has happened to the genre, at least since Christian Bale dawned the Batman cape. He commands every scene and is in his prime, using the multitude of talents he has to prove his versatility and position as one of the business's best. Like many of his other characters, there is a lot of Tony Stark in the real Robert Downey Jr., but the real RDJ is pretty sweet, even if at times he is a train wreck waiting to happen. Terrence Howard is solid, as usual, as Jim Rhodes, the armed forces commander whom Tony Stark has done business with in the past, and Gwyneth Paltrow brings depth to the role of Pepper, Stark's personal assistant. Both actors expand typical comic book characters beyond what was on the page, delivering human performances in a superhuman movie. But no supporting character is more spot-on than Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark's business partner and mentor. Bridges is smooth, charming, deceptive, and deranged as Stane and is the perfect counterpart to Downey Jr.'s high-strung, GQ Starks. This batch of fine acting is coupled with a fast-paced, clever script written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, who no surprise co-wrote Children of Men in 2006. And last but not least, all of this talent is captured on-screen brilliantly by director Jon Favreau, who has once again taken a film that looks destined to fail and turned it into a sure genre classic (Elf). Despite everything that is right about Iron Man, it is still a superhero movie which means action scenes run a bit long at times, a few (much less than usual) lines are corny, and some plot twists can be expected. But unlike nearly all movies of its ilk, Iron Man is genuinely funny, feels different, isn't over anyone's head, and has a great ending. Superhero fans will be titillated by the comic book references, action sequences and state-of-the-art special effects, but even those who do not flock to the theater for each new Marvel or DC big-screen adaptation will be intrigued by the raw fun that is Iron Man. The film shows that not all movies that are destined to make millions and inspire theme-park rides are devoid of value, and some even raise legitimate questions about national security, foreign policy, science, and cast-iron suits.

Good for: superhero film fans, people who like CGI, Robert Downey Jr. fans

Bad for: people who dislike big budget movies, fans of realistic films

The Gallery
The Economist: * * * * *
The Film Maker: * * *
The Writer * * * *

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