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Iron Man (2008) – Movie Review

Iron Man Movie Poster

Written by: Mark Fergus, Matt Holloway, Art Marcum & Hawk Ostby, based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck & Larry Lieber
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Farin Tahir.

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is a freaking genius. And he not only inherited his empire but he works to maintain it, being the freaking genius that he is. Oh sure, he’s a bit of a playboy (as, the man said, rats are a bit covered in fur) and extremely cocky and completely unaware of what his actions are doing to the world stage. While out in the field for a demonstration, he gets captured by guerillas and forced to build them weapons. He’s a bit vulnerable, though—not just because he’s far from home and away from his support staff—but because he’s got a small reactor hooked up in his chest that keeps shrapnel from shredding his heart. Now he’s got to do something that would make both The A-Team and MacGyver take pause: create a one-man army in a cave in order to stop the shitheads from misusing his work.

[ad#longpost]And it goes from there. The bottom line is this: the movie works. It works extremely well and it does so because of Downey. Without him, the whole thing would have fallen apart, good effects, good story and all. He nails the part of Stark the way Bale nails the part of Bruce Wayne. They treat these characters as people and take the time to make them seem real. He starts Stark off as a prick—a likeable prick but a prick all the same. And then he makes his change of heart after his brush with death (I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here, the line’s in one of the trailers) seem completely believable. In fact, that’s why the character works on screen: Downey doesn’t do anything that makes you disbelieve, for a second, that he’s Tony Stark and this version of Tony Stark would do that.

Jeff Bridges is excellent as Stane, bringing to the role what I took to be an amalgam of Lex Luthor and Sidney J. Mussburger. He is a prick too, but he smiles when he lies. Gwyneth Paltrow takes what would be a thankless role, the Would-Be Girlfriend, and gives it just enough strength to keep it from being 2-D. And Terrence Howard takes another role, The Friend, and makes it work as well, giving Downey a nice foil. A scene between he and Downey on Stark’s private jet is priceless.

I honestly can’t tell who to thank for the fact that the script works, because we’ve got four credited writers and a slew of uncredited ones (including Downey, from what I understand). The thing is this: I have never seen a film get so close to the brink of bad comic book dialogue…and yet not tip over the edge. Nor have I seen a film get so close to the abyss of bad comic book characterization…and not fall in. This thing tap dances on the freaking point of no return and doesn’t topple. Impressive. These folks seemed to have remembered just in time that words in a comic book panel that are brilliant may not work when placed in the mouths of flesh and blood people. I will say that Favreau deserves a lot of credit, though. The film is smooth, engaging and he pulled off a coup of taking a character who isn’t as well known as say, Superman or Batman, and making everybody want to see the film.

The effects are incredible. I could probably tell if I watched carefully again on a second go-round, but just on my own, I couldn’t tell when we had crossed from CG to real suit walking around with a stunt guy or Downey in it. Granted, with the Iron Monger it was a little more obvious, but with Iron Man himself (apart from obvious bits where, you know, he’s flying) it was pretty seamless. And they managed to take us from Mark I clunky walking tank to sleek red and gold badassery and make them all look amazing.

I was very satisfied with the film. It’s no surprise that it’s kicking the ass of the box office—it led off with strong trailers that pulled both the geek faithful and the people who thought they were making a movie out of the song, then kept those up—then delivered in spades. Sequel, please—but take your time, guys. And don’t fuck it up.

Oh, and to Robert Downey Jr., I say: thanks. And welcome back, man.