Me and the Firecracker went to see Iron Man this weekend at a matinée, and were not disappointed. This is my favorite Marvel superhero movie since the first Spider-Man, which I regard to be the best of the bunch. Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect and inspired casting choice, and lives up to, and beyond the task.
Gwyneth Paltrow does an excellent job as his assistant Pepper Potts, and I like to think she got comfortable with this sort of role in the underrated Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Jeff Bridges plays business associate Obediah Stane, with a beard and a shaved head, looking entirely different and fitting once again perfectly as the embodiment of elder power-broker machismo. Terence Howard plays Rhodes, a military man who works closely with Stark industries.
It’s a terrific cast, and Jon Favreau directs them with aplomb. He’s come a long way since the indulgent film Made, which I found tedious. He plays a small role and thankfully sticks to the sidelines, and redeems himself for appearing in Daredevil with this excellent superhero film. The plot is sufficiently ridiculous without straining our disbelief. Arms broker, genius inventor, and womanizing playboy Tony Stark is captured by opposing forces while doing a weapons demo in Afghanistan, and creates a “primitive” power armor suit to escape; he undergoes a deep change after being tortured and held captive, and makes enemies when he wants to shift business toward power generation.
He builds a new suit to take care of the people who captured him, and gets into shenanigans. I really don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but having heard a little comic book nerd lore, I was able to figure out who the bad guy was early on. The effects are stunning, and the animatronic bad guy armor is pretty amazing, done by Stan Winston of course. And it doesn’t even look like the Terminator endoskeleton in any way shape or form. Favreau used a mix of live action and CG, and I wasn’t able to pick out any bad CGI, and I’m usually really picky.
What makes this movie, seriously, are the characters and how they’re played. We’ve seen superheroes fly around and blow shit up before, and we’ve seen the playboy millionaire who fights by night before. Iron Man has his demons, but he’s very different from Batman, despite the similarities in the latest incarnation of the Dark Knight. The film has a lot of enthusiasm and it’s infectious, without diving into cheese territory like the X-Men movies or Daredevil. It’s a lot of fun, and while there’s some good action, the end fight is a little lackluster, and it’s really telling when you’re watching a superhero version of Monster Garage and enjoying the hell out of it.
Great job Mr. Downey and company. Make sure you sit through the credits for a great Easter egg at the end. Also, they set themselves up for a sequel long before this, with a perfect little nod to War Machine showing up sometime. The movie isn’t perfect, but it’s the best entertainment in a theater I’ve had in a long time. Its weaknesses are easily forgivable, but I was a little miffed that the Black Sabbath song so prominently featured in the teasers was relegated to a partial play in the end credits. Here’s hoping the sequels are as strong as this one, because I want to see more of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, and hopefully some more Iron Man regulars.
The previews are also a complete and total nerdgasm: Indiana Jones and the Unwieldy Title, The Dark Knight, and The Incredible Hulk (which I’m not too thrilled about, but what the hell). Also Mike Myer’s latest character The Love Guru, and Adam Sandler in what looks to be a genuinely funny film and not just fan service, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. M. Night Shamalamadingdong’s latest twist flick, The Happening. The internet already ruined the ending of that to me, so it’s as transparent as The Village to me.