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  Iron Man

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Produced by: Avi Arad, Kevin Feige

Written by: Matt Halloway, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

 

     What a way to start the summer movie season!

     No, Jon Favreauís Iron Man is not a masterpieceónor is it even one of the best comic-book adaptations ever madeóbut it represents the first time Iíve had unadulterated, big-budget fun at a cinema sinceÖ well, last summer. The movie represents exactly what a summer release should: loud and spectacular entertainment that makes a point of remaining cohesive and involving despite its enormousness. With Iron Man, Favreu has tackled a Herculean project and, in the process, has given birth to the next big Marvel Franchise. Drawing from a script penned by four incredibly talented screenwriters (Mark Fergus, Hank Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway), the up-until-now-underwhelming filmmaker manages to contemporize a story that was created forty years ago beyond all expectations. He turns a simple premise about a man who builds a powerful iron suit out of desperation into a commentary on corporate honesty, the beginning of an epic love-story that will develop in future films, and an eye-popping showcase of modern CGI. I wasnít the only one sitting back in my seat during the screening and repeatedly whispering the words holy crapoly to myself.

     It is, of course, a bit dismissive of me to direct all of my praise of the film towards Favreau, who is hardly the sole auteur of the project. Lead-actor Robert Downey Jr. deserves equal credit for capturing the full sardonic glory of defense-contractor protagonist Tony Stark. From the first scene in which his character self-indulgently poses for a photo-op in a military-tanker leaving the Middle-Eastern test-site of his companyís latest cave-busting missile, Downey magnetically becomes the darkly funny Stark. He flips his biting humor into mad-vigorousness seamlessly, too, when Starkís convoy is hit minutes-later by one of his own weapons, leaving him captured by insurgents who want him to construct the tested-missile out of scrap-metal. There frankly isnít a scene in which the actor skips a beat; he continues to press for brilliance in fresh and challenging ways when the plan expectedly turns into an opportunity for Stark to fool his captors and build the titular Iron Man suit, bursting out of imprisonment in epic fashion. And when moral-dilemma hits when Stark finally returns home and realizes what his weapons are capable of, Downey tackles the unthinkable task of turning the caricature into a real guy coming to terms with his controversial achievements. This all goes without saying that heís also darn cool when heís saving the world sporting the suit, which he perfects in his lab upon return.

     If my summary of the film seems scattershot, thatís because it is. Iron Man is not the kind of movie that is worth explaining in complete detail because, after all, itís full of all of the mythology and geeky intricacies that the majority of comic-book-adaptations are. Unlike Christopher Nolanís polar-opposite DC-spawn, Batman Begins, this is very much a film that embraces its catoonish roots and runs with them. (However, thatís not to say that it canít be taken completely seriously in the process.) Iron Man is all about the moments that the individual viewer finds cool, and the hackneyed chain of events and abstractions listed above represent exactly this for me.

     The one story-thread of note that I hinted at enjoying but havenít elaborated on yet, however, is the wonderful romance experienced between Stark and his longtime personal assistant, Pepper Potts (a gorgeous, illuminating Gwyneth Paltrow). The scenes that Tony and Pepper share together ooze of sensuous longingóthey some of the best relationship-based passages Iíve seen in any movie this yearódespite the fact that the two are never granted a glamorized kiss or scene of unfiltered passion. Their interaction is much subtler than one might expect, with an absolutely extraordinary scene arriving in the filmís second-act that, in its seductive restraint, is as good (if not better) than any of the action the film offers.

     While I have spent the bulk of this review praising Iron Man, there is one area in which the movie suffers obligatory problems: its trivial climax. Given the fact that the film basically functions as a setup-piece for a grander series, one gets the feeling that Favreau and the screenwriters didnít even want to give the film its own villain and traditional narrative arc. Unfortunately, genre-conventions clearly prevailed and they surrendered to triviality in this area. The aforementioned villain comes in the form of Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), Starkís company-partner who may have been responsible for conducting one of many underground deals responsible for the ownership of the weapon that put Stark in his initial predicament. Because of his shady dealings, Obadiah finds himself expectedly angry when Stark announces his decision to halt the corporationís weapons-production after realizing the harm that it has done, vying to take matters into his own hands. And when he gets wind of Tonyís Iron creation, Obadiah commissions one of his own in order to fight to keep his corrupt business-ventures afloat. Iron Man reaches the aforementioned climax when the two men battleóas Iron Man and Iron Monger, respectivelyóand the scene predictably feels dry, manufactured, and all-too-convenient. As necessary as they may have been in getting studio-approval on an otherwise unique, chancy superhero movie, the scene and its background break the tempo of the tone and themes that Favreau works so hard to develop throughout the filmís duration. Nonetheless, they represent small disappointments in a grandly exciting motion picture. On the whole, Iron Man is the rare comic-book movie deserving of all the accolades and box-office-revenues that it musters up, certainly one that will see a long string of anticipated sequels in the years to come.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 5.3.2008

Screened on: 5.1.2008 at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, CA.

 

Iron Man is rated PG-13 and runs 126 minutes.


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