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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Iron Man is as Fun as it is Strong

Iron Man: 4 out of 5 Stars
Tony Stark: Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?
Here's a superhero flick that has plenty of cool, a well developed hero, and a lot of fun to please all audiences. It plays as a very faithful comic book adaptation that is made better by its well done handling as a blockbuster film along with some spot on casting and solid visual effects.


Director Jon Favreau, who has gone from gaining indie fame (Swingers, Made) to family blockbuster (Elf), has assembled a film that maintains its entertainment factor, while still being able to focus mainly on its characters, providing action scenes that (for a comic book movie) are used to drive the plot.

Robert Downey Jr. is ingeniously cast as Tony Stark, a billionaire industrialist and inventor. We see how Stark is, boozing and cruising the ladies, advertising his fancy weapons to the military, until he is suddenly kidnapped by a terrorist group in Afghanistan.

During his initial kidnap, Stark suffered a direct hit from Shrapnel, only to have a fellow engineer design a mechanism above his heart to keep him alive.

Stark is now tasked with building weapons for the terrorists, but he has different plans. After making a better life support system in his chest, he designs a suit of armor equipped with weapons in order to escape. He does so and returns home.

After experiencing the horrors and seeing the results his weapons really have, Stark makes the decision that his company will know longer produce weapons.

Stark's other plan, which he keeps to himself, involves perfecting the suit of armor he has designed and taking out various terrorist groups and areas using his weapons around the globe. Some special things about Stark's suit are its weapons, and oh... the ability to fly.

Tony Stark: Yeah. I can fly.
Unfortunately, problems might be closer than he knows, as one of his companies top executives, Obediah Stane (a bald dude, Jeff Bridges) secretly wants to build even more powerful super suits of his own and take out the competition.
Engineer: Sir, the technology doesn't exist. Honestly, it's impossible.
Obadiah Stane: [yelling] Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a box of scraps!
Engineer: Well, I'm sorry. I'm not Tony Stark.
Also featured in the film are two more good character choices. Gwyneth Paltrow is extremely cute and likable as Tony's assistant Pepper Pots, and Terrence Howard plays Tony's best friend and military commander Jim Rhodes, complete with a line of dialogue that comic fans will eat up while they wait to see him become War Machine in a future sequel.

As much as this movie will be billed and advertised as an action movie, its great to see that the characters do come first and it has been casted and structured that way. There is actually only a small amount of action in this movie, but the same can be said about Spiderman 2 (probably the best Marvel Superhero movie yet), but despite this lack of action, it is made up for by serving as a well acted and developed superhero movie. Also, with the lack of action, we get a lot of scenes involving Stark having fun building stuff, which is very entertaining.

Tony Stark: [recording a log as he tests his rocket boots] Day 11, Test 37, Configuration 2.0. For lack of a better option, Dummy is still on fire safety.
[turns to robot]
Tony Stark: If you douse me again, and I'm not on fire, I'm donating you to a city college.
[performs test then lands]
Tony Stark: Please don't follow me around with it either because I feel like I'm going to catch on fire spontaneously. Just stand down. If something happens, then come in.
All of these actors are wonderful. The chemistry is very good as evidenced through the dialog rhythms (many of which were improvised) of various scenes, and basically just how well done everything flows.

Jim Rhodes: You owe me a plane.
Tony Stark: Yeah, well technically he hit me.
The movie truly belongs to Robert Downey Jr. however. He is a perfect Tony Stark. Sure his character flaws, namely alcoholism, have been pushed aside this time around for later installments, but his character is so well handled, providing a believable arc for his reasons of putting on the suit and what he fights for.

Its also impressive to see how faithful to the comic this movie is. For a feature film designed to please everyone, this movie makes sure to get it right while functioning as a film for all (something many comic fans have griped about concerning the first Spider-Man and X-Men movies). While Iron Man is certainly not the most well known of superheroes, its great to see that they left the source material alone and still managed to make it all work very well.

Along with the characters, the production is greatly handled as well. ILM once again provides a wonderful realization of the fantastic, such as a man flying around in a metal super suit. Seeing Iron Man break the speed of sound for the first time is awesome to behold on many levels. Then you have all the little gizmos in Stark's own home, the machines he has built himself, equipped with a sense of humor, so no inventor is every bored (Stark has a computer assistant equipped with dry, British humor voiced by Paul Bettany).

Favreau's direction is solid for the most part. This is his first foray into something of this magnitude, so any sort of visual flash is not too noticeable yet, but that's likely to improve in the future. The score is also fitting, combining the general superhero-type theme with heavy guitar riffs fitting of Iron Man, let alone the use of Black Sabbath in the end credits.

If there are any issues it involves how to bring this chapter of Iron Man to a close. Of course you need an action sequence and a possible damsel in distress because its a comic book movie, but the two acts that proceeded its ending are certainly much stronger. The final minutes are wonderfully fitting however, and the final lines are used in a way Downey Jr. is perfect for.

Overall this is a great start to another superhero franchise combining strong performances, very cool visual effects, a faithfully adapted comic story, and a high entertainment value to work well at pleasing nearly anyone.

[Walking in on Tony taking his Iron Man suit off]
Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: What's going on here?
Tony Stark: Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing.
Virginia 'Pepper' Potts: Are those bullet holes?

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