***1/2 (out of 5)
May 2, 2008
Robert Downey Jr. as TONY STARK / IRON MAN
Terrence Howard as RHODEY
Jeff Bridges as OBADIAH STANE
Gwyneth Paltrow as PEPPER POTTS
Directed by: Jon Favreau
BY KEVIN CARR
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Superhero movies sure have come a long way. I remember growing up and seeing the original Superman films with Christopher Reeve. They were marvels of filmmaking back then, but they still had their warts. With the advent of digital effects and practical effects technology, we have finally approached the reality of seeing the comic books come to life on screen.
Even as short as jut a few years ago, there were still plenty of warts. After all, we could see where the CGI began and the practical effect ended in films like X-Men. And who doesn’t recognize the digital manipulation to get Mr. Fantastic to stretch like that.
With the release of Iron Man, there is almost a perfect blend of special effects. In the action sequences of the film, I cannot say where the CGI Iron Man bridged with a real metal suit. If the 1940s was the Golden Age of Comic Books, then we are now in the Golden Age of Comic Book movies.
Ultimately, Iron Man could not have been made even five years ago without looking a bit cheesy or having the effects break down. And this film so relies on those effects to give it its look and feel that it is really the first of its kind.
I’ve been a DC guy most of my life, and my interest in the Marvel universe is really something driven by Hollywood rather than the comic book industry. Consequently, I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of the Marvel heroes. Sure, I know about Spider-Man and the X-Men, but second tier characters like Iron Man I knew by their costume only.
Iron Man begins with an origin story, and while I poo-poo this kind of treatment for someone as famous as Superman or Batman, an origin is essential for this film.
Robert Downey, Jr. plays Tony Stark, an alcoholic, womanizing weapons mogul who is kidnapped by a fringe group of terrorists in the Middle East. They want him to build them a weapon, but Stark uses their lab-in-a-cave to construct the ultimate fighting armor. When he returns to the U.S., he continues to improve upon the design so he can fight crime and the war mongers who have gotten their hands on his weapon technology.
The buzz behind Iron Man has created the perfect storm of media hype leading into the summer season. For some, the film simply cannot live up to the hype, but that’s only reserved for sci-fi nerds who have downloaded every scrap of leaked footage and hi-res photo onto their computer. For the casual viewer, the film delivers exactly what the trailer promises.
Jon Favreau has a strong sense of action and excitement to his films. He manages to make the movie kick a whole lot of ass while still tempering the violence a bit for the family market. In other words, lots of things blow up, but most of the deaths are bloodless and seen off-screen.
But the real hero of the movie is Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey, Jr. For years, Downey has been a respected actor who could do both serious work and Hollywood fluff. He manages to give us a blend of both in this film. All jokes about his possible method acting to play a drunk aside, Downey gives us a very realistic yet hyper-realistic portrayal of Stark.
The story gets thin in parts, but really only for the secondary characters. It’s Stark’s film, and Downey owns the role. In the hands of a lesser actor, the film could have become tedious.
With awkward misfires from the past two years (specifically Spider-Man 3 and Mission: Impossible III), it’s nice to see a film that is an exciting kick-off to the summer season. It’s a great film and fun to watch, but it’s also not so perfect that nothing will ever live up to it.