Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Iron Man (Movie Review)

I’m a geek. I love comic books. In the last few years I’ve really gotten into Iron Man. Not as much as I was ever into Spider-Man or Starman, but I read everything that comes out each month. So I was excited about this movie, even more so after the trailers started appearing.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark was...well, not really inspired, but obvious. Stark is a recovering alcoholic playboy and, well, we all know about Downey’s past. Obvious or not, he delivers. Terrence Howard works well as James Rhodes, although I always imagined his character with a deeper voice. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Gweneth Paltrow but, as with Julia Roberts, her acting chops always impress me. She handles Pepper Potts masterfully. And Jeff Bridges always works as a bad guy. So let’s have a round of applause for a wonderfully put together cast.

Now, the main reason comic book movies tend to get bashed by comic book readers (and the main reason why Quentin Tarantino, an admitted comic book geek, won’t ever be involved in a comic book adaptation) is because liberties are always taken with the character’s origin, the character’s look, the character’s powers, or how the character acts. But let’s look at this seriously for a moment. In the case of Marvel’s cache of characters, most of the legends (Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four) were created in the early ‘60s. Captain America (another Marvel legend) and most of DC’s big guns (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) were created in the late ‘30s or early ‘40s. So a modern update for most of these characters is needed. Spider-Man’s origin was switched from being bitten by a radioactive spider to being bitten by a genetically enhanced spider. Here, Tony is injured while demonstrating a new weapons system in the Middle East rather than in Vietnam, where he was injured during his first comic book appearance.

Watching Stark build the first suit and tear through the terrorist camp was amazing, like seeing Wolverine pop his claws for the first time in the first X-Men movie or watching the Joker rob the mob bank at the beginning of Dark Knight. It was just so damn cool.

As with Batman Begins, a lot of the fun from this movie is in watching the gadgets being created, watching the man become an Iron Man, from the first failed attempt at boot jets to the final (and classic) paint scheme of red and gold.

I loved the look of Iron Monger. The first Iron Man comic I ever read was issue #200, where Stane first dons the Iron Monger armor and ends up committing suicide at the end of the story. I much preferred Stane/Monger is this movie version rather than his comic book counterpart. The armor seemed so much more menacing

A few more little things I liked: Agent Coulson and everybody commenting that Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division is too wordy, and then at the end Coulson ends up calling it S.H.I.E.L.D.; Raza calling his group the Ten Rings (is this setting up the Mandarin as the villain for the sequel?) I also liked how Stark got into his armor. It looks like Favreau took a hint from the Ultimates, but rather than having a crew put the suit on him, his work-shop robots did it. It was a hell of a lot better than trying to get us to believe that the whole damn thing could fit in a briefcase. And the Nick Fury cameo at the end? Awesome.

If you can’t tell by now, I loved this movie. It was fun, it had the right amount of drama and humor, the acting was top notch, and the action was great. The fight between Iron Man and Iron Monger was brutal, and in the end Stark has to rely on his brains to win rather than the suit. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and are a fan of action movies with a splash of smart assery thrown in, rent this movie. In fact, just buy; it’s worth watching again and again.


Thea said...

Great review--Iron Man definitely was a homerun of a movie. I watched it opening night and of course bought the dvd immediately.

Although...I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed with the final showdown between Iron Monger and Iron Man--it was very fast, transformers-y and almost anticlimatic. (Is Obadiah dead!? Forever?! You can't do that!) Still, the movie totally kicked ass, and I applaud the RDJ casting.

This summer was a geek's dream come true, what with Indy, Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy II and The Dark Knight. I do think Hellboy II wins as my fave summer superhero blockbuster, just edging out Iron Man. (The Dark Knight I lump into a different category entirely because...well, it was a winter movie masquerading as a summer blockbuster. And Batman is my favorite comic,, no contest!)

Rob Rosenblatt said...

You're the second person I've talked with about the movie who thought the final fight was over too quickly. But even in the comic I think Stane wore the armor only once before he took his own life. Now his son is terrorizing Tony in Invincible Iron Man, which is a surprisingly awesome book.

I have yet to see Hellboy II. With 3 kids, it's almost impossible to get out of the house for a movie (or to afford to go see one even). I've gotta wait for the DVDs to come out. I haven't missed Hellboy II, have I? The one exception my wife and I made was Dark Knight. She was a huge Heath Ledger fan, and she wanted to go see it for her birthday. Regardless of what anybody's favorite comic is, I think most would agree that that movie was spectacular.

Thea said...

I have to admit, I'm not very familiar with the Iron Man book. I wonder if Stern Jr. will be the villain in the sequel? That would be cool.

You haven't missed Hellboy II on dvd yet--it should be out soon I think. It's very Guillermo del Toro, which I think is a good thing :) I liked it more than the first movie.

And yep, agree with you on The Dark Knight. Cripes, that movie was epic.

Rob Rosenblatt said...

I got into the main Iron Man book (now called Iron Man, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.) during Civil War. I picked up the new book (issue #6 was out this week) because of all the positive reviews, and I think it's by far the best of the two.

I feel they somewhat set up the Mandarin to be the next villain. The terrorist organization that capture Stark was called The Ten Rings. The only way I can figure they'd make it work, though, would be if that Middle Eastern group was only a small part of a larger, global organization run by the Mandarin. It wouldn't make much sense to have a Middle Easter guy call himself The Mandarin, an Oriental name (and tasty on a salad).

From the previews, Hellboy II looked larger in scope (and special effects) than the first. I'm really looking forward to finally watching it.