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Thursday, May 8, 2008

REVIEW - "Iron Man" (2008)

At this point audiences have more than caught on that superhero movies are the big fad today. It’s obvious why. The special effects of today make these characters possible to bring to life and, more importantly, they’re the perfect type of summer blockbuster—They make money.

The majority of the superhero movies are origin stories; movies that show the birth of a certain superhero and why they do what they do. Though we’ve seen so many of these types of films I sat through “Iron Man” wondering, “Why is this movie so different?” The fact is that a good movie is a good movie. This is what “Iron Man” has on “Ghost Rider,” “Daredevil,” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.” In fact “Iron Man” is such a good film that it may top every Marvel Comic movie we’ve seen thus far. (Yes, even “Spider-Man 2.”)

Billionaire weapons creator Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is anything but a character that fits the superhero mold. He’s sarcastic, a womanizer, he enjoys reaping the benefits off of others’ misfortunes and he has no sense of morality. His sharp wit and exponential ego is cut down when he is held in captivity for three months. Though his Middle Eastern captors want him to build a missile, he instead uses his genius to escape by means of an armored suit. When he returns home he dedicates his talent to modifying the suit and “protecting the people he put in harms way.”

My summary does the film very little justice. What the movie really owes its magnificence to is Robert Downey Jr.’s quick, spot-on portrayal of Tony Stark and his rapid-fire quips written by screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (“Children of Men”). The writing may trump even “Batman Begins,” and Robert Downey Jr. might just be the best lead superhero to grace the screen. He never goes overboard, but instead gives the audience a character that’s enjoyable to watch whether he’s in the Iron Man suit or not. He’s believable, and without being a Peter Parker or some poor soul who accidentally gets “cursed” with great powers, he betrays a headstrong man bent on giving himself those powers to correct his mistakes and do wonders beyond that.

The glowing performance by Downey is accompanied by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard, all in which hold their own against Downey’s presence. Paltrow and Downey have the chemistry Maguire and Dunst wished they had in the first “Spider-Man.” They keep each other on their toes and Paltrow does an excellent job rebounding off of Downey’s wit.

What the film kind of muddles its way through are the villains. While they aren’t laughable (“Ghost Rider”) or overstocked (“Spider-Man 3”) the motives of the main villain aren’t fleshed out very well and his vague reasons hardly justify his actions. (Not to mention it was pretty obvious who the main baddy was going to be.)

I’m sure some people will write “cliché” on this movie for incorporating a hazy interpretation of the current Middle East struggles and under-the-table weapons dealing. But it sits well with the concepts brought to the table in the Iron Man mythos. Comic books have always had their own commentary on current events: Captain America has battled against the Nazi’s, if I recall, and not too long ago a comic book was released depicting Spider-Man’s reaction to 9/11. Iron Man has a right to bring fiction to current events and I don’t think the way it was done is too offensive for wide audiences, or too heavy to be preachy. It’s simply a statement that isn’t meant to be overstated. It doesn’t need to be.

Meanwhile the special effects bring to life a hero that’s cool, fun and a joy to watch in action. Granted the action isn’t as plentiful as, say… “Transformers,” but the movie as a whole offers so much more; so when you’re treated with Iron Man going in to battle it’s just that much better!

“Iron Man” may just be the best Marvel film to fly on to the screen. Even with the onslaught of pictures and previews before its release nothing was ruined and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with it. I eagerly await the return of Tony Stark and his gold titanium suit. (With a little “hotrod red.”) And judging from the box office results, so is everyone else.

***½ out of ****

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