Monday, May 05, 2008

Iron Man


I don't water to oversell this movie, but I thought it was great. It was perfectly cast, combining the sarcastic humor of Robert Downey Jr and the luminous quality of Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow reminds of us of why we'd like her to do movies more often. Downey's role in the movie is one of those inspired bits of casting that you first think is completely wrong when you hear who is playing the role (like Michael Keaton in the first Batman). But then you see the movie and you can't imagine anyone else playing the role. Former Oscar-nominated actors Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard capably fill the two other main roles.

Downey plays Tony Stark, a brilliant inventor and owner of a company that produces high-tech weapons for the military, but not just American military. It covers ground that was explored in Nicholas Cage's movie of a few years back, Lord of War. It's disingenuous for companies or inventors to claim no responsibility for the illicit use of things they create. Stark is very much a carefree playboy who seems to believe exactly that. Iron Man movie explores his transformation both physically and psychologically. I won't ruin the movie by telling you exactly what causes that transformation.

This is the world in which we live where terms like "surgical strikes" and "smart bombs" are tossed around like we are talking about a video game and not people dying. You wonder why people are desensitized and ambivalent about the Iraq war ... it's because they truly don't experience the grittiness of real war. The people in the Middle East do - acutely.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as serious a movie as it may seem by my above description. I'm merely saying that below the surface, it's addressing some real issues. The strength of Jon Favreau's (Swingers, Elf) direction is that it doesn't beat you over the head with a message. Favreau is good at witty banter and coaxing very funny performances out of his actors. I've read that he took a Robert Altman tact towards directing (naturalistic and ad-libbed) and let Downey have a lot of input into his role.

The chemistry between Downey and Paltrow is natural and very enjoyable. Downey is very good at showing the flawed nature of his character, Tony Stark, because he is obviously a good actor but also because he's lived the role. Whether it's real or not, Downey's real life seems to inform this performance immensely.

Though action really hasn't been part of Favreau's repertoire before now, I think he does a good job. The special effects, by ILM, look good and not hokey.

Director Favreau cameos in the movie. Another interesting and oddly apropos cameo was Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) as one of the militant Arabs.

I'd have to agree with Laura that the movie's primary purpose seemed to be to set up more movies. Well, if Downey continues to play the role, you've got me hooked. Grade: A

********************UPDATE************************

Please check out Wunelle's outstanding review of Iron Man:

Bionicle-Transformer-Thingie-Dude

and Reel Fanatic's:

Finally, the word on Iron Man ...

8 comments:

Antimatter said...

Great review - I loved the movie and thought it was excellent, especially for an origin story. It also avoided some familiar trappings by focusing almost solely on the hero with only a minor villain, and by also being tonally more light hearted than many super hero movies of late. And the character arc of the hero coming to realize the harm he has done and trying to atone also felt fresh.

Great cast, but it was the Robert Downey Jr. show really; his performance together with Favreau's loose style made the movie. And it was nice to see some thematic elements that were very topical and relevant! As you say, it was integrated nicely into the story without compromising the film's style.

Jeffy said...

I couldn't agree more with your review.

My son and I saw Iron Man last night and we both thought it was great (although he thought it was all a bit too loud at our theater, and I wasn't thrilled with the $9 they shook me down for just to get in - at least my son is young enough to only cost $6 - but for $15 I feel like I should at least have a down payment on the DVD when it comes out).

wunelle said...

I refrained from reading your review until I had mine written. You were kinder than me, but I think we're largely in agreement. I though it was wonderfully-cast, and beautiful to look at.

I think my ennui about the storyline conveniently forgets that it's a movie primarily for tweens. So the plot twists may be fresher or more germane than they seemed to me.

CyberKitten said...

Planning to see it on Saturday.

I haven't been very impressed with the comic adaptations so far - but this one actually sounds good [laughs].

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the linkup ... I have to agree with you that one of the best things about Favreau's very good flick was its commentary on military culture, even if it was handled with humor

dbackdad said...

Jeffy said, "... I wasn't thrilled with the $9 they shook me down for just to get in" - I thought Phoenix was high at $8.50 and $9, but L.A. takes the cake. I paid $10.50 there.

CyberKitten said...

I pay about $12 eqivalent (with my Student discount). Normal price is about $15 here & *much* more in places like London.

wunelle said...

For $15 my grade goes down!