Sunday, May 25, 2008

Iron Man

I was skeptical going in to Iron Man, but my fears were quickly assuaged. Essentially, this is exactly what I want out of a big budget, summer blockbuster, popcorn movie.

This is Marvel Studios first independent production, and they started off with a doozy.

Iron Man has all of the things you want in a great comic book movie. It has high flying acrobatics, tons of action and flash, and the requisite fan boy nerd shit. Jim Rhodes (Terrance Howard) is there—they even set it up for him to be Iron Man in the future. Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow) is around. Obadiah Stane (the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges) is the Iron Monger. There is even a little bit of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrown in for good measure, and of course, Stan Lee makes his obligatory cameo. And since it is Marvel, without interference from co-producers and studio heads who’ve never read a comic, they can stay pretty true to the story and characters. I have read some Iron Man books, but not a ton, but pretty much everything I do remember is in here. That said, I’m still pretty forgiving about adaptations, but I’m sure you can find someplace that lists every wrong detail.

And I do have to say, Robert Downey Jr. is spot fucking on as Tony Stark. He is better than I ever hoped. Really though, it is the role he was born to play. Who better to portray an alcoholic millionaire than an alcoholic millionaire?

The movie starts out with Stark, weapons manufacturer and world renowned playboy, getting blown up and abducted by some gnarly terrorists. At this point I was pretty worried that it was going to be one of those, all Arabs are terrorist, go team America, woo, movies. Admittedly they do a pretty good job of keeping that shit to a minimum, and playing the enemy in our own back yard card.

The terrorists are well armed, stocked to the gills in fact with the very weapons Stark manufactures with the intention of protecting America (okay, so I have a little trouble buying that any large scale weapons manufacturer would really be so na├»ve, but after some witty banter, gunfire, and explosions, I’m along for the ride). He’s got some shrapnel inching ever closer to his heart, so his buddy, and fellow prisoner, Yinsen (Shaun Toub) rigs up an electromagnet to keep them away. The bad guys want Stark to build them a weapon. He fools them into thinking he is, while in reality he is building the Mark I suit. He makes a daring escape, Yinsen dies, and the entire ordeal makes him see the error of his ways, and that he should be using his resources for the good of the people of the world, not leaving a body count as his only legacy.

It is not a half-bad adaptation of the Iron Man origin. It is pretty true to the original. From then on we get some sweet armor making montage action, complete with comic relief in the guise of a bunch of hapless, but loyal and friendly, robot assistants. There is the requisite double dealing, sexual tension, corporate intrigue, friends revealed to be enemies. If you’ve ever read superhero comics, then you know what to expect. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, because it totally is. But really, it’s all about watching Iron Man fly around spreading some justice, and in the end, fighting a big ass evil mechanical suit. That it what this movie is all about, and that it precisely what it delivers. I’m not a fan of most CGI (did you see the bullshit in I am Legend?), but in this movie, as much as it pains me to say it, it actually looks really good.

Outside of Batman Begins, this may be the best of the bunch when it comes to guys in tights, superhero movies. We’ll see what Marvel has in story for us with the release of the new Incredible Hulk later on this year (and the rest of the absurdly long list of their catalog they plan to adapt to the big screen). Now if only someone could make a decent Punisher movie.

With a movie like this, you know enough to know you have to stick around past the credits, right? If you don’t, you don’t have any business being in the theater. If you didn’t hang out, you should probably go back and take another gander, because I’m about to ruin some shit for you. After the credits it gets real nerdy. Stark comes home after admitting to the world he’s Iron Man, only to find a shadowy figure lurking in his super posh living room. Who is this mysterious individual? None other than Nick Fucking Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., that’s who, motherfucker. I don’t know if I buy Samuel L. Jackson as the eye-patch wearing badass, though. Not because he’s black, in the Ultimate Universe, Nick Fury is indeed an African-American gentleman. My problem is that one David Hasselhoff gave a pretty definitive portrayal of Senor Fury in the 1998 powerhouse made for TV movie, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m just saying, Mr. Jackson, you have some rather large shoes to fill.

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