Monday, May 05, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW

Iron Man

Directed by: Jon Favreau (Elf, Zathura)

Most people don’t know much about Iron Man as compared to Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, which is not so surprising, considering that he’s never been that huge of a character in the comics universe to begin with. Sure, most comic book enthusiasts have heard of or seen what Iron Man looks like and are vaguely aware of his membership in the Avengers, but beyond that there’s very little that the mass audiences know about the man in the suit.

This includes me. However, over the past few years, especially during Marvel’s crossover event “Civil War” last year, I have become more aware of Tony Stark and his role in the Marvel universe, which, at current, is massive.

Oh, by the way, if you are bored to tears with comic books and don’t give a shit about origins and current continuity then it’s time to tune out. Just scroll down to the movie grade and all will be well.

However, if you’re even a little curious, then stick around. I’ll try to be brief.

So…Iron Man. The early origin of Tony Stark is a billionaire arms/weapons designer/manufacturer who is vehemently battling the communist regime, namely the Vietnamese (as he was born in the Vietnam Era) and is injured while there, forced to build a weapon and instead builds the Mach 1 armor, freeing himself from his captors and so inspiring him to fight the forces of evil with an evolving array of Iron Man suits.

While most superheroes of both Marvel and DC (and all the rest to boot) have very similar origins, they each have their own slant and individual traits and quirks that make each character a little different and a little more unique than the next. Unlike the traditional downfalls, such as kryptonite (Superman), shitty relationships (Daredevil), or murdered parents (Batman), Iron Man/Tony Stark suffers from a very common affliction…namely, alcoholism.

Although not played up as much in the film, it has been central in the building and tearing down of Tony Stark throughout comics continuity since his inception. It has defined him, along with his heart condition and tortured genius, to become both a strong and imperfect character.

I don’t know if Marvel was timing the movie with a sudden burst of presence for the character for the past few years or if they just felt it was time to give him his due, but it’s actually a very kick ass time to jump onboard the world of Tony Stark.

Last year, the Marvel crossover event was called “Civil War,” which split the Marvel universe in half, pitting hero against hero in order to fight for/against a newly designated “Hero Registration Act” which has all super powered beings register with the government in order to be regulated and tracked in order to maintain order and facilitate their use without having a bunch of costumed weirdo’s with super abilities running rampant and of their own agenda.

This act was endorsed and enforced by Tony Stark, who had stepped in to act as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is much like a super powered CIA in the Marvel Universe. Nick Fury, the cigar-chomping, eye-patch donning, WWII vet and staple of Marvel comics for years has always been the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but was recently ousted and gone underground.

For those following current continuity (help me out here, Zaki…I think it’s just you and me, here) then it has been revealed that he had gone underground for two reasons…one) to support Captain America in his lead to fight the government registration act and two) to prepare for a Skrull invasion and get his ducks in a row to win the fight.

Now, I realize that if you’re still with me then I have leapt into the pool of geekdom, fully donned in arm floaties, flippers, and really ugly board shorts. You’re scanning these words and are SO ready to get to the movie review. I’m with you. Just hang tight for a sec…

Now, during the “Civil War,” which, by the way, was spawned when a super powered being killed an entire block or two of civilians and forced the government to take action, Tony Stark led his group of heroes against the opposition, which was lead by Captain America.

You may have heard in passing that Captain America had been killed, which is partially true. Steve Rogers, the original Captain America was gunned down after giving himself up, leaving his old partner, Bucky Barnes to pick up the mantle at present time. Obviously, Iron Man winning his battle proved to be bittersweet, as Steve Rogers was one of the original Avengers and fought alongside Stark for decades and they had a strong bond of friendship.

The significance of me telling you all this is to help explain why and how Tony Stark/Iron Man has become such a phenomenal and torn character over the past few years (not to leave out the stories previous, I’m just not familiar with them). From his grass roots in Vietnam to his role as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., leader of the Avengers, and recovering alcoholic, Tony Stark has become a true character of depth and great interest, making him finally worthy of the recognition he has been denied due to the shadow of web slingers and men with capes.

That all being said, the movie, Iron Man, is a knock out of the park for all involved, including Marvel, now operating as its own studio, which allows them to spearhead their properties in the right direction rather than letting a Hollywood collaborative destroy it piece by piece.

While the average moviegoer may not recognize the significance of this, it’s important to note because very rarely does a movie studio go the extra mile to protect their property and to make sure it is presented to the public in the proper way, one which delivers both to non-comic readers and rabid fans alike. It’s a delicate balance, one that could use to be struck with bigger studios like FOX, who recently shat their AVP franchise respectively down the toilet for a few bucks.

Director Jon Favreau approached the material with a keen eye, sharp style, and respectful manner, which shows in every frame of Iron Man, right down to the casting. No stranger to the vices of the sauce and the powder, Robert Downey, Jr. is THE perfect actor to tackle the role of the strong, yet plagued character of Tony Stark and tackles it with a perfect balance of charm, wit, and strength. Downey, Jr. plays it as real to the origins of Stark as possible, from start to finish in his journey from billionaire industrialist to crime fighting superhero.

Jeff Bridges provides his first real villain role, sans hair and sporting a massive beard, as Obediah Stone, Stark’s evil and conniving partner. Gwyneth Paltrow is Stark’s renowned assistant/burgeoning love interest Pepper Potts, and Terrence Howard plays Col. Rhodes, Stark’s best friend and eventual owner/operator of his own Iron Man armor, called War Machine.

The comic book nods and references are all there, with an updated origin that switches from Vietnam to Afghanistan, making the character origins current. This takes nothing away from the comic continuity, as the primary staple has always been Stark fighting against the enemies of the country, reflecting the times we live in.

The story is simple and straightforward. Dare I say, we’ve seen it before. However, the style and manner in which it is presented is…in a word…fun. Iron Man doesn’t blow its load too early. It has longevity and lasts till the sweet release at the end, giving a full and engaging movie going experience that will (and by word of mouth, HAS) fulfill both fans and non-fans.

The action and special effects are near flawless, leaving you to give up guessing what’s real and what’s not as the film goes on. It is truly kick ass to see Iron Man “in the flesh” so to speak and doing what Iron Man does, which is fly around, look cool, and use his gadgets to beat the shit out of the bad guys.

Iron Man is essentially the quintessential formula, the example, that all other summer movies should strive to be, especially if they are representing a pre-existing property with a built in fan base. The kudos go to all involved, from the head of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad, to consultants like Joe Quesada, and to director Jon Favreau who never once tries to make this into something more than what it is…a comic book adventure put on celluloid. Marvel learned that lesson with the first Hulk movie and from the looks of it, doesn’t intend to relive that debacle.

There is competition this summer, but Iron Man definitely kicks off the season right and sets the bar high for the rest of the capes, fedoras, and green goliaths to live up to.

You couldn’t ask for a better time at the movies.


GRADE: A

3 comments:

mr.boy said...

Great review. I agree with every word. There was definately a "wahoo" around every corner here.

A kick ass time that left me wanting more. Well done, Favreau and Co.

Well done, indeed.

Zaki said...

You got the basic gist with the Nick Fury stuff in the current comics.

I'll have my review up tomorrow, hopefully. The short version: kick ass.

Anonymous said...

Man, you are a super dork.
I still love 'ya.
Here is my review for chicks:
Even chicks will dig it.
The end.

-Cherie