The buzz surrounding Iron Man has been unmissable lately. Every second day a new TV spot or trailer is released, another interview with director Jon Favreau is posted or another tantalising screen shot is leaked to hoards of people like us.
So I was a bit disappointed to find out that I pretty much knew the entire plot, subplots and shot list of the movie prior to going in. If too much promotion can damage a movie then this would be a good case, and it’s a shame because it is a well crafted, well acted piece of popcorn cinema.
Robert Downey Jr is perfectly cast as Tony Stark, the womanising, hard drinking playboy of Stark Industries, and his ability to create a likeable arseole is where this film triumphs. You can think of other actors that could play Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne but after seeing Iron Man you couldn’t possibly imagine anyone else in the role: Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark.
The script he is given to work with is solid and smart, but does require a massive amount of “leave your brain at the door”. Parts of the movie play like The A-Team, when BA would weld together a tank using a bath tub a radiator and an orange. But this is Iron Man not the Science Channel so we can let it slide. The scriptwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (responsible for the Oscar nominated screenplay to Children of Men) have done a fair job of adapting the works of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (who makes a hilarious cameo), but if anything the action scenes are over a little too quickly.
Villain duties fall to Obadiah Stane played by Jeff Bridges. Now I love Jeff Bridges, and he turns in a good performance. But when he drinks a glass of whiskey and pulls that Dude face you just expect him to say something like “the Dude abides” or “you mean the carpet pissers did this?”.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays a good Pepper Potts, Terrance Howard is suitable as Jim Rhodes and will no doubt be back in the sequel since they have done a rather blatant job of setting up a possible follow up scenario or spin off (War Machine). Even Jon Favreau makes an appearance as Stark’s chauffeur Harold “Happy” Hogan.
Stan Winston (effects guru and Terminator builder) along with Industrial Light and Magic help create a seamless blend of metal armour and CGI. The effects stand up really well on the whole, although there are patches when it leans slightly towards the feel of a computer game. Overgrading a movie is a current trend in Hollywood and can make a realistic shot look more computer animated than intended. It also doesn’t always translate to well to DVD so make an effort to see this on the big screen.
Afghanistan provides the geographical badness when Stark is kidnapped and forced to build a missile system by a group of terrorists dubbed the Ten Rings in sequel set-up number two (the Ten Rings is the source of power for Iron Man’s nemesis Mandarin). Instead Stark decides to build a giant mechanical, er, Iron Man and lay waste to a handful of bad guys and a large tent before hot footing it back to the US to rapidly build Iron Man Mark 2.
We see the evolution of Tony Stark from weapons manufacturer to peacemaker, we see The Dude, sorry, Obadiah Stane, become the Iron Monger and we see an appearance from S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson in spinoff/sequel set up number three. We don’t see the rumoured Samuel L. Jackson appearance as Nick Fury.
Upset that Stark Industries’ weapons are being sold to terrorist nut jobs Tony Stark decides to pay them a little visit and blow shit up for a couple of minutes using his new, improved hot rod red Mark 3 suit. Excellent stuff, but the whole Afghanistan terrorists storyline and rampages through innocent villages just seems a little shallow.
The final showdown is impressive if a little dark in colour and a bit more attention to motion blur on CGI is needed in certain parts. But it’s generally quite thrilling. It also imitates a scene from Ang Lee’s Hulk movie where the Hulk clings to the bottom of a jet until he freezes, lets go and plummets back down to earth. Not a bad idea, just not very original. In a comic book world where there is a wealth of material to draw from could they not have come up with something a bit more exciting?
A comic book movie like Iron Man should be the sort of movie that makes your pulse quicken and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It should be the sort of movie where you want to stand up and yell at the screen “go on Iron Man give that bad guy some shit!” but it lacked that extra punch that maybe a better director could have provided. Not that Favreau isn’t capable, he’s just more of a character director than an action one.
Its ironic that after spending millions of dollars on special effects, the best bits of the movie are when Robert Downey Jr is in his lab talking to his computer.
Iron Man is a well made fun piece of cinema, but before you go in to see it just think about a little expectation management – it’s not the best comic book movie ever. What is? I’ll let you know once I’ve seen The Dark Knight.
Another opinion? Read Martin Anderson’s review of the film here.