Man of “Iron”

image The summer movie season begins with today’s release of “Iron Man” in theaters.  The next few months promise to be an exciting one for moviegoers – that is, if they can afford the price of a ticket these days, what with the state of the economy and everything.  As for myself, I try to stretch my entertainment dollars as far as I can by attending matinee screenings and skipping the refreshment bar.  With all the flicks I’m interested in seeing this summer, my wallet will surely thank me for my frugality!

“Iron Man” is a fun little soufflé of a movie, with plenty of humor and action and things that go boom.  As yet another superhero “origin” movie, it’s somewhat beholden to the conventions of the genre, so the action doesn’t really kick in until the second half.  But the script is free of groan-worthy lines, and the acting is top notch.  Seeing that Iron Man is a third-string comic book character, with fairly weak familiarity by your average audience member, the movie lives or dies by its casting.  And what a stroke of genius it was to get Robert Downey Jr. onboard as the title character.  The actor has had more than his fair share of run-ins with the law and rehab over the past fifteen years, but ever since emerging “clean and sober” about six years ago has really been on top of his game.  Here he imbues Tony Stark with just the right balance of humor and heroism – so much so that I can’t imagine any other actor doing as well in the role.  He’s in nearly every scene, and his presence absolutely commands our attention, so the movie’s worth seeing for his performance alone.

The other actors are uniformly excellent: Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts, Terrence Howard as his friend Jim Rhodes, and a clean-shaven-and-bearded Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane (gee, I wonder who the bad guy is?).  The chemistry between Downey and Paltrow’s characters is very fun to watch, at times preferable to some of the clang-clang robotic action in the final act.  And yes, the door is left WIDE open for sequels, with a tantalizing scene after the end credits that strongly hints at the storyline for the next one.

As an origin story, I think “Iron Man” is better than the first movies in the “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” franchises (both of which improved markedly with their first sequels), but it lacks a strong thematic through line, a la “Batman Begins,” which was as much a meditation on fear as it was a beginning for that particular character.  And I must admit that the whole origin story “template” is beginning to wear a little thin for me.  In that respect, I really liked how the first “Hellboy” movie defied convention by giving us a short prologue to explain the origin of the character, then introduced everything else through the eyes of an up-and-coming FBI field agent as we joined Hellboy and friends on an epic comic book adventure.

In short: the movie is pretty good (see it primarily for Downey/Paltrow, and then for the action), and the sequel’s bound to be even better.  This is a nice, strong start for what should be a terrific movie season.

8/10

4 Responses to “Man of “Iron””

  1. Bryan, you liked this film more than I did. I left to use the restroom in the second half and realized shortly after that I didn’t care if I finished the movie or not. It wasn’t terribly bad, just not interesting. Granted, I’m not much for the comic book movies.

  2. I sometimes get bored with movies too, though most of the time I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and stick it out till the end. Sometimes they surprise me, but since it takes more skill to end a movie well than to continue plodding through a lousy plotline, my initial instincts usually turn out to be correct.

    This one had a few flat patches, but it ended on a high note. The very last line of dialogue certainly bucked genre expectations, and in a good way. I’m sorry the movie didn’t do much for you, and hope you found (or will) a flick more to your liking soon.

  3. Bryan – great review! (and great flick). The show really kept my attention, with all the action, and the plot. I left right at the end and didn’t get to see the part after the credits that you mentioned. What was it?! I just gotta know :)

  4. To be honest, the scene wasn’t much of a much – probably only 30 seconds in length, with only a few lines of spoken dialogue. And you’d have to be a pretty big fan of the Iron Man comic books to really appreciate it. (To prove my point: when it concluded, one of the fanboys sitting behind me said in pure jubilation, “Oh s—!” My reaction was more, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”)

    Anyway, spoilers in 5…

    4…

    3…

    2…

    1…

    Tony Stark arrives home, presumably after the press conference that concludes the movie. It’s nighttime. There’s a man standing in the darkness, with his back to the front door, looking out Tony’s huge picture window.

    Man: ‘I am Iron Man.’ Do you think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe; you just don’t know it yet.
    Tony: Who the [heck] are you?
    Man: Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. [Surprise! It’s Samuel L. Jackson, wearing a black leather jacket and a patch over his left eye.] I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.

    And that’s it. You can do a search on YouTube if you’re interested in seeing the entire clip. Some guy with a camcorder recorded it and posted it online. I don’t condone movie piracy, but a lot of people left without seeing the final scene, and don’t feel like paying to see the movie again in the theater to watch it. (Can’t say I blame them.) So there you go. Given the fanboy reaction, it sounds like the sequel could be pretty kewl. :)

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