Monday, May 5, 2008

Iron Man Review

Iron Man will not disappoint. Neither comic fans, nor the casual moviegoer will find fault with the finished film. It combines action, pathos and comedy in a way not normally found in a ‘comic book’ movie. I should go on record as saying that I believe Sin City to be the ultimate comic book movie, I thought Batman Begins was perfection and Spider-Man sucked. All three times. Iron Man learns from its predecessors and effectively bridges the gaps in creating a film that not only appeals to all audiences, but never feels like its sacrificing its integrity in order to so. Its serious subject matter, intense fight sequences and witty dialogue all weave together seamlessly in a tapestry that was even better than I had expected.

Opening in Afghanistan, billionaire weapon designer Tony Stark is captured by men using his own arms against him. They force him to build a new missile system for them, but he constructs a suit for himself in order to escape. When he makes his way back home, he decides to stop building bombs and begins to try to protect the people he has spent his life putting into harms way for money.

I do not want to dwell on the plot, because although it is a very well written story, there is so much more going on with the film. The story simply serves to let the actors shine. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark and he shines brighter than ever. He’s in complete control here, blending his personal style of acting, his public persona and the core elements of the character to deliver a fantastic performance superior to anything you’ve ever seen from a superhero. Downey and Stark are like Nicholson and McMurphy in Cuckoo’s Nest. You don’t know where one begins and the other ends because they fit each other so well. Downey and his character are both moving past a checkered past with eyes open, trying to better themselves, better their world and finding it less easy than expected, but infinitely more rewarding as well.

For me personally, I have been waiting for this movie for quite a long time. Last summer when footage was screened at Comic-Con and the movie began to build hype, I was dealing with my own problems with alcoholism and found immeasurable inspiration in not only the story of Tony Stark, but in that of Robert Downey Jr. as well. One year later, as Downey is reaping the benefits of his long road back for addiction to the heights of stardom and critical acclaim, I find myself in a better position as well and experienced an indescribable joy as the movie opened.

To return to the film, yes, Downey carries the movie, but the supporting cast is excellent. Both Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Stane are great with what they’re given and although Terrence Howard as James Rhodes doesn’t have as much business, he’s play his part well, knowing that he is being set up for bigger things in the eventual sequels. But, the other half of the credit of this movie belongs solely to Jon Favreau.

A long time favorite hyphenate, writer-director-actor Favreau steps out of the comfortable position of making such family fare as Elf and Zathura and makes an amazing action debut. The flying sequences are better than anything I’ve seen since Top Gun and the fight sequences with Tony in both the Mark I and the Mark III suit are incredible. Like his leading man, Favs is awesomely adept at balancing the practical effects with the computer animation to create scenes that flow effortlessly and have audiences focusing on the action, rather than watching to see where its really the actor in screen and where its not. The movie does not really on the action, but Favs paces it well enough for those scenes to really pay off and be meaningful enough to involve the audience, actually moving the plot forward unlike some other Marvel movies I could name. (Or you can name them yourself, because you know which ones I’m talking about.) The dialogue scenes between Downey and the rest of the cast snap with his quick delivery. Favreau approaches the film in a straightforward manner rarely seen in comic books movies. More adult in its tone than Spider-Man but less dark and heavy than Batman Begins, it’s like the third bowl of porridge. The movie is just right with a story of substance and relevance in a world where often heroes are fighting villains from outer space or people with such nefarious plans like drowning the world. Stark in not a superhero, but a regular man who builds a super suit, so Favs places him in a normal world without superheroes. They play against a lot of superhero conventions to satisfying ends, but the movie works so well because of the director’s choice to ground it in reality and work with his imperfect protagonist in an imperfect world.

As of this writing, Iron Man opened to approximately $104 million dollars in the States and grossed $200 million worldwide. That makes it the 2nd biggest opening ever for a non-sequel, 4th biggest comic book opening and 10th largest opening weekend EVER. I tip my head in appreciation and congratulation to Favreau, Downey and the entire cast and crew. Of course, this is great news for me, because it means a sequel, probably a trilogy and even more movies for me to enjoy. Thanks again!


Maz said...

Indeed, Iron Man is one of the best films I've seen in a long time. As for RDJ (Robert Downey Jr.) his performance in this betters that of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, though the two shouldn't really be compared; I feel that the comedic parts can.

Great review.

Michael Mendez said...

Thanks for reading Nick. I think Downey has been doing solid work like Zodiac, Scanner and Singing Detective, but he is on his A game now. His delivery of the dialouge makes the movie. I can't wait for the sequel.

Maz said...

I believe in Robert Downey Jr ever since his break out performance in Hearts and Souls.

Michael Mendez said...

Dude, what about Weird Science?

Maz said...

True, what about U.S. Marshals?

Michael Mendez said...

Natural Born Killers?