Thursday, May 08, 2008

review: iron man

To be perfectly honest, I think I liked the trailer better (see the ONION's take on
Iron Man below). The summer's first blockbuster is certainly better than some of Marvel Studio's previous offerings, misfires like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and The Fantastic Four. Iron Man even sails above other super hero movies that had budget enough to achieve more than they did: Ang Lee's Hulk and Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. But recent franchises such as Spiderman, the X-Men, and Batman have set the bar pretty high, particularly in terms of their screenplays, and everything that works in Iron Man is somewhat undermined by its lazy plot line.

Jon Favreau has assembled a superb cast, admirably led by Robert Downey Jr. as rebel billionaire Tony Stark. Downey's performance in the film's first act is worth the price of admission, but the highlights of his ballsy comic take on the character are all in the preview, so most of us have already seen this performance for free. After Stark escapes from captivity he becomes sullen and self-righteous and, to be honest, a little bit boring.

Jeff Bridges, one of my favorite actors, is capable as the villain, Obadiah Stane; his appearance, I would argue, lends more menace to the role than his lousy dialogue. And Gwyneth Paltrow rarely takes an acting gig these days, so it would have been nice if the script gave her something more to do.

Most deserving of kudos is the special effects team. Iron Man looks spectacular as he soars through the skies, and the CGI is more seamless than I have ever seen. Favreau is known for using as many practical elements as possible, and he seems to have paid a great deal of attention to making sure that details that
needed to be animated are visually authentic in comparison. There are, however, many scenes dedicated to the construction of the Iron Man suit that could have been forfeited in service of character development and/or action. Normally I prefer the former, but in this case, I think the movie is lacking an additional sequence featuring Iron Man in the field.

I know that there are limitations in telling what is essentially an
origin story, and Iron Man is slightly above average in the ways that it attempts to satisfy both fans and newcomers. Nevertheless, the right scribes have introduced us to other characters with more efficiency. At times, I simply felt that not enough was happening on screen to grasp my full attention. I suppose that Iron Man is satisfying enough to launch us into the summer season, but with heavyweights like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight nipping at its heels, it is likely that the metal man will soon be forgotten... That is, until the inevitable sequel appears.

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