Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Movie Review -- Iron Man
IRON MAN -- 8 out of 10
Thanks to connections from my past life, I got to go to a press screening of the movie Iron Man last night. I'd been looking forward to seeing it since the trailer that Paramount showed during the Super Bowl, and fortunately, it didn't disappoint.
Let's start with the lead character. I'd heard mostly positive comments about the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, but I'd also heard a couple of my comic-book savy friends say that he isn't suave enough. Well, I'm pleased to report that he was absolutely perfect. I think the trailers showed the jokier stuff, but he had plenty of times where he was able to be suave, and the jokier moments never felt hokey. He also had plenty of chances to be a cocky bastard, but fortunately, it's never done in a way that makes you not want to root for him. Downey Jr. also put on some muscle for the role, and while there was no hand-to-hand combat in the movie, he looks like he came prepared. He has a lot of great lines, and I think most men in their 20s and 30s will leave the theater secretly wishing they were Tony Stark ... and that's not a bad thing!
But that's just one of the characters. Fortunately, most of the other actors had enough to do to where no one felt wasted. Terrence Howard is great as Rhodes, and there's even a quick 'War Machine' reference that will get a slight laugh from most of the audience, but will have fans of the comic book drooling over the possibilities of a sequel. Gwyneth Paltrow was solid as well, and had enough to do to where she wasn't just window dressing. There are even some smaller parts that left a lasting impression, including a government agent who keeps trying to schedule a meeting with Tony, but can't seem to get on his calendar. His last line in the film will also have the fanboys salivating. My only complaint performance-wise would be Jeff Bridges, as he felt a little hammy in a couple of scenes, but it's not so bad that it ruined anything. Although I couldn't help but see him drink scotch and imagine that it was a White Russian...
Okay, I know what you're thinking. 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. How well did stuff blow up?' I'd have to say that stuff blowed up pretty good. The effects were great, but never felt show-offy. That's the best compliment I can give them. The director (Jon Favreau) didn't let the CGI get in the way of the story, and the film is all the better for it. My one concern is that there isn't as much action as some people may be hoping for, and I hope that doesn't hurt it at the box office. However, I think the first X-Men and Spider-Man films had a similar problem, and it didn't hurt them. Also, the action that is there is a lot better than most summer blockbusters because it's on a smaller scale, and there is an amount of pathos that I think most people will appreciate. In fact, this might be the only time I've reviewed a summer blockbuster where I used the word 'pathos,' so take that as you will. Let's just say it's not something most people will notice, but it's there. There's enough going on in the story to where you don't have to check your brain entirely if you don't want to. Again, that's probably the best compliment I can give to a big-budget action movie.
I have to admit that the final 30 minutes are just a tiny-bit disappointing. Favreau loses some steam in the pacing in the final act, but I think this is more of a reflection of how great the first 90 minutes are. It needs to come to a conclusion, and you feel it pushing to get there, even if you don't want it to. The final battle that occurs isn't as SLAM-BANG as some people may be wanting, but I like how it was handled. I won't go to any spoilers, but I'll just say that I didn't feel like the conditions of the battle were forced, because it was all set up properly, so I accepted it with no hesitations.
Overall, it was a very solid film, and a great launch to what will hopefully be a successful franchise. I don't think it will be as big at the box office as Transformers, because it has less action and doesn't have as much franchise awareness, but the action in it is well-done, and the entire film has a lot of heart, which I wasn't expecting. In terms of the quality of recent comic-book origin films, I'd put it slightly behind X-Men, but ahead of Transformers and Spider-Man. I think it will finish around $200 million in the States, which would make it a success. Maybe then we could count on a sequel, which I would welcome with open arms. Bring on the War Machine!