Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Golden Goose (Now with Red Accents!)

Iron Man

Release: 05.01.2008

Rated PG-13
2 hours, 6 minutes


Ka-ching! Did you hear that? It’s the sound of the till overflowing courtesy of the first film of the blockbuster summer. Marvel’s Iron Man opened this weekend to the tune of $104 million, pounding the competition into the pavement. In the vein of comic adaptations before it, Iron Man is an origins story, chronicling the evolution of brilliant, corporate mogul Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., U.S. Marshals) into the red-and-gold metallic hero. His fast cars, fast women and devil-may-care attitude are thrown out the door when Stark is kidnapped by terrorists and ordered to build his latest weapon of mass destruction, the Jericho. Instead, Stark is inspired to build a metal suit to affect his own rescue. Once back in the comforts of his lavish lifestyle, the disturbing events of his abduction lead him to improve his unwieldy escape harness into a lean, mean, defending machine.

Any action film that opens rocking out to AC/DC’s Back in Black wins immediate brownie points. Cliché though it may be, when it works it works. Downey is both smug and charismatic; for all the reasons there are to despise Stark you can’t help but desire to be near him…Reporter Christine (Leslie Bibb, Talladega Nights) is proof of that. Also in continuous orbit around Mr. Stark are his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en), his friend Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard, Hart’s War) and his trusted advisor Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges, The Vanishing). The story development is quick-paced and tight. Director Jon Favreau (Elf) develops Stark’s transition from wild playboy to a man on a mission in a way that grabs audiences and consumes our attention. Favreau balances violent, gun-blazing action with sincere emotion and dedication to doing the right thing.

If there is a flaw to be found, I would point my finger at the pseudo-science of suit development. The series of sequences detailing the evolution of the suit had an engineer’s wet dream of a work space complete with intelligent robots, 3-D holographic blueprints, and endless wires, nuts and bolts. It also provided some much needed comic relief via a few failed test runs. Personally, I could have done with less production gadgetry in lieu of a few more test gags. Though I admit I come from a time when left-for-dead Officer Murphy wakes up transformed into the coolest cybernetic body (a.k.a. Robocop) sans the dull and plodding evolutionary jargon. The elaborate workspace made me speculate on the suit’s true limits and the safety of its pilot, but those less nerdy than I should not let my minor quibble deter them.

Dirty Undies
As a boozing, good-time billionaire, Stark has it all, even a private plane with ultra hot stewardesses who transform into strippers at 30,000 feet. Downey is charismatic, though a bit scrawny for a superhero. I guess Terrence Howard was hired to up the manly eye candy since he’s given little else to do. The earlier battle sequences are rapidly paced and satisfyingly destructive. I would have appreciated a more staggering scale of devastation in the climactic battle, but it works well enough to qualify as a proper superhero film.

The Money Shot
It’s taken a while but Marvel seems to grasp the idea; a quality cast really does help the end product. It also helps to have a well-developed script in the hands of a competent director who obviously cares for the material. I don’t think it quite reaches the success of Spider-Man but at least it’s a far cry from Daredevil-Hulk-Punisher-Ghost Rider…um, you get the idea.

P.S. – True believers will enjoy our staple cameo, Stan Lee. But those lovers of all film projects Marvel may want to stick around for a nice foreshadowing cameo after final credits roll.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. "I would have appreciated a more staggering scale of devastation in the climactic battle"

    Very true. The climax was quite anti-climactic. Too bad considering the high energy of the rest of the movie that it sort of leaves you on a downer.

    Loved the Lee cameo. Best ever (outside of Mallrats, of course).

  2. I think Lee's cameos keep getting better. Maybe they'll superimpose his face onto the Hulk come June! All that's left is for him to be one of his creations.

    At least they've got room to be more violent in Iron Man 2.

  3. Nice review. I had similar thoughts on almost every point you made in my own.

    Part of the ending to Iron Man didn't make any sense: What is Stane going to do even if her kills Tony and Pepper? He saw Pepper with the g-men and knows their is a warrant out for his arrest. Getting in his Iron Monger suit means jack. He'll have to get out of it sometime.

  4. Good point, guess that's the fun with film - why bother with details like that. In Stane's world, he probably figured he could jet to some non-extradition country after the deed is done. He'd just be screwed if he needed to stop for a bathroom break before he left.

  5. Unless he thought of that. Think the Marauder Suits from the book Starship Troopers.