Sunday, May 04, 2008

Iron Man

If you're not already familiar with the concept of Iron Man, here's a quick rundown: Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark - billionaire, genius inventor and playboy who is just charming enough to make you overlook his abundance of ego and the fact that he has little regard for anyone other than himself. On a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest killing technology, Tony is seriously wounded and kidnapped by terrorists who, under threat of death, order him to build the same killing technology for their benefit. With the help of a fellow captive, Tony realizes that his life's work, rather than promote peace, has only served to prolong global conflict as the weapons he has designed have fallen into the hands of the very people he has wanted to protect the world against. Resigning himself to make atonement for his mistakes, instead of building a devastating weapon, Tony builds a crude but adequate and extremely ingenious suit of armor and makes his escape. Upon his return to the states, he perfects the armor design and with the help of his personal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his best friend, Jim 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Terrence Howard), he sets out to use his company for something more positive than weapons manufacturing, much to the consternation of his business partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).

Big Fun! Iron Man is the perfect start to the Summer movie train - it's story has depth while not being convoluted on one end or simplistically trite on the other, the action is flashy but not overly used or ridiculously over the top and the characters are believable as people rather than exaggerated caricatures or empty vessels. The movie takes itself seriously without becoming preachy and always remembers to acknowledge it's inherent humor and, most importantly (at least in my opinion), the audience is never subjected to insulting scenarios or convenient deus ex machina. Now I'm not saying that the movie is scientifically sound and never breaks a single law of physics; if that were the case, the movie wouldn't have been half as good as an episode of MacGyver and, anyway, this is a superhero movie, so a little suspension of disbelief is required but, curiously, not as much as in some 'based on a true story' movies I've seen.

As for the players, I really don't think the film could have been cast any better. I've always heard that you can tell if a movie was cast correctly if, after the initial viewing, you can't imagine anyone else in a specific role. The character of Indiana Jones is a perfect example because even though everyone knows that Tom Selleck was the original choice, it is absolutely impossible to imagine anyone other then Harrison Ford under the fedora. This rings very true for Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark because Downey was able to infuse the right amounts of his own personality into the character that is Stark. In fact, there are several lines of dialog that I'm positive Downey ad-libbed brilliantly, further making the character his own, and, in addition, Downey should be credited with single handedly salvaging what would have been, at best, a mediocre final climatic battle. The supporting parts, while not being quite so actor specific, were equally well cast and portrayed, bringing a comfortable chemistry into practically every interaction that occurs, with the standout being the friendship and sexual tension between the characters of Pepper Potts and Tony Stark. Downey and Paltrow are perfect together and at certain points their interactions are reminiscent of David and Maddie from Moonlighting. Seriously - maybe not the heated and frenetic exchanges but definitely the 'trying to keep things professional while we stand this close' with exchanges of subtle glances that seem to say, "I know that you know that I know....." while being afraid to act on impulse for fear of the other's reaction. Rounding out the supporting players, Bridges and Howard bring a simple, gritty realism to two characters who could have easily and accidentally been portrayed with evangelistic zeal but, thankfully, were not. Together, the entire ensemble constructs a cohesive quality to their performances that, for lack of a better term, feels right, and it's that cohesiveness that works in conjunction with the action and special effects creating a Summer blockbuster that is, for the most part, as focused on the characters and what the audience thinks of them as it is on the CGI.

But don't just take my word for it. Unless, like Osama, you've been living in a cave (actually, I think he's been living in a condo in Boca, but that's another post), you've already heard how well the movie has been doing in it's first few days of release. Marvel has already confirmed the sequel along with several other titles with a possible film to bring several characters, including Iron Man, together (The Avengers). That's excellent and promising news to the legions of comic geeks and fans (I fall somewhere comfortably in the middle), but if you're not a fan of comics, don't let that deter you from seeing this really fun (and funny), well acted and exciting film.

Oh, and don't forget to stay until the end of the credits or you might miss something.


abm1127 said...


abm1127 said...