Tuesday, May 27, 2008

He Is Iron Man

Considering the guy looked like he was on the point of total self destruction just over five years ago, there is something positively triumphant about the performance of Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man.
I know I am a little late to the party here on Iron Man but I had to post how impressed I was by the film and specifically Robert’s performance as Tony Stark. While the film falters a bit in the final climatic section, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a summer blockbuster so much. Jon Favreau’s direction is really spirited and manages to find a nice balance between the thrilling older comic book adaptations I grew up with like Richard Donner’s Superman and the more modern CGI fueled films that typically just find alienating.
Iron Man is a real winner on nearly all counts. Featuring possibly the best cast of the year including Downey, a menacing and bald Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, the voice of Paul Bettany and a radiant Gwyneth Paltrow, Favreau’s film is a rare special effects spectacle that also works as a human drama. I felt really invested in the characters here and that’s something that rarely happens in these types of films anymore.
Of course the film is a special effects feast and I found them to also be above the norm, with them only faltering slightly in a climatic fight sequence that plays out as the picture's weakest point. Otherwise though they are really thrilling and I totally believed that was Robert Downey Jr. in that Iron suit and not just a faceless design that originated on someone’s computer monitor.
For all the films virtues, including some really sharp and thought provoking commentary on the ramifications of weapons manufacturing, the major selling point of the film is indeed the work of Robert Downey Jr. One of the finest American actors we have, Downey delivers one of his best performances as Stark and he looks the model of good health. I found it quite a moving experience watching Downey in this film and this performance, combined with his scene stealing work in David Fincher’s Zodiac, marks one of the most successful and much welcomed comebacks in quite a while.
I’m not all that familiar with the comic book Iron Man so I can’t really comment as to how faithful the film is but it worked extraordinarily well for me and I hope they deliver more films in the series. The film’s final defiant moment alone (in which Black Sabbath’s own “Iron Man” is used to great effect) made me want to stand up and cheer, even if it was as much for Robert Downey Jr. himself as for Jon Favreau’s smart, exciting and invigorating film.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

Great review. I loved this film. I don't know much about the Iron Man comic myself. I can't compare the two. I thought this film was awesome. It has a great cast. I think that played a big part in it. It was just a really cool summer popcorn movie that worked on so many levels. Glad to see that it has done so well.

Brandon Colvin said...

Agreed. I should have written a review as well. I LOVED this movie. It gives me hope for the upcoming HULK, which is the second film from the newly formed Marvel Studio and will feature a cameo by Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark.

Pete Emslie said...

Admittedly, I'm not much of a fan of summer blockbusters, but given what this film is, I think it succeeds well on its own terms. I guess what I appreciated about "Iron Man" was the political subtext, which I felt came across as a strong indictment of George Bush's "adventures" in both Afghanistan and, by association, in Iraq especially. I like the fact that this film thoughtfully questions the use of all the high tech weaponry that seems to kill and maim rather indiscriminately, as well as those weapons that fall into the wrong hands through political wheeling and dealing.

I have mixed feelings about Robert Downey's portrayal, though my criticism is more directed toward the writer of his "ironic" dialogue. I realize many moviegoers like that sort of thing but it's just not to my taste. I really liked Jeff Bridges as the villain of the piece, and I felt there was a nice dose of both Rumsfeld and Cheney in his character. The last act did get too silly and went on much further than necessary. I thought the high altitude ice problem should have spelled the end of the giant iron-suited villain, harking back to Iron Man's own near catastrophe earlier in the film.

But, as these comic book adaptations go, it seemed like a pretty smart one overall. I do wonder how they can continue on with this as a franchise, however, given that Iron Man seems to lack the physical, human vulnerabilities of Spidey or Batman. The villains are always going to have to be pretty huge and powerful to offer up much of a threat to this armored guy. That could get tedious.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks to you all for the interesting comments and viewpoints. Very good to read all your thoughts on it...on to THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

Ed Howard said...

Yea, I thought this was great as well -- it really surprised me how impressed I was. I read a lot of comics but not very much superhero stuff these days, so my memories of the Iron Man comic are fairly hazy, but the film seemed to do a good job of synthesizing many different aspects of the character, his history, and his milieu from various points in the comic's long run. I especially liked that they focused on the "weapons manufacturer with a conscience" aspect of the character, which I believe probably started to crop up in the comics around the 70s or so. Downey delivers an amazing performance that really creates a fully rounded character. He's not just some guy in a CGI suit, as this film could've easily been with a lesser director or a lesser cast.

I wasn't especially into Jeff Bridges' performance or the character, and it got even worse in the silly climactic battle.

But otherwise this was a fantastic summer blockbuster with some real soul to it, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future of the Marvel self-produced films. Although, the trailer for the new Hulk movie seemed to be more sturm und drang than character development, so I hope the Marvel suits actually realize that what made this film so successful was the characterization and wit that went into it. I do have a lot of hope for the Captain America, which by all accounts will be a period film set entirely during WWII -- in the right hands, that could be amazing. And if they're going to continue making these individual films for all the Avengers characters, they should really let Robert Kirkman write a rude, dialogue-heavy, funny Ant Man film.