Saturday, 10 May 2008

Iron Man

IRON MAN (2008)

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Screenplay: Mark Fergus & Hawk Otsby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges, Terence Howard & Gwyneth Paltrow

After the enormous success of Spiderman 1 & 2 (we’ll forget about 3), Batman Begins and even X-Men 2, could comic books movies really get any better? These films combined great stories, deft acting, breakneck action and a maturity not often seen in comic book movies. Well, the answer is yes and Iron Man can proudly join the aforementioned films (and possibly beat all of them) as one of the best comic book/blockbuster movies out there. A perfect combination of smarts, thrills and funnies, Iron Man is about as good as blockbusters get. Hyperbole maybe, but this film is what the big screen is all about.

Iron Man may not be as iconic as other Marvel characters such as Spiderman or Captain America but he is one of their best. A comic which featured a superhero who was not super but instead made himself into a hero out of scrap and iron. Tony Stark was one of the original anti heroes: a self made billionaire who was more interested in bedding the babes and the bottom of a bottle than he was in saving the world. However, things change when Stark (Downey Jr) is kidnapped by terrorists and forced to build a missile, that his company produces, so the terrorists can attack the West. Enslaved in a cave, miles from anywhere, Stark instead uses his technical knowledge to build a suit of armour to escape. Thus Iron Man is born and on his return home vows to stop the production of Stark weapons and creates a more high tech suit to battle evil. Not everyone takes to Stark’s new found respect for life, especially Obadiah Stane (Bridges), Stark’s business partner, who has plans to steal the designs of the Iron Man suit for himself.

Much darker in tone than expected, Iron Man excels in its mission to entertain but also give us characters we care about. The cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s long suffering secretary and possible love interest, Pepper Potts, and Terence Howard as his buddy and confidant, Jim Rhodes, elevate the material above comic book cliché’s, infusing the dialogue with charm and believability. Bridges is great as the menacing Obadiah Stane, a striking image with his bald head and big beard. He seems to be relishing playing such a bad character. But, as every other review has no doubt mentioned, this is Downey Jr’s show. And it is. He is Tony Stark. At first arrogant and money hungry, he then becomes more mellow and charming and it’s Downey’s skill as an actor that we come to care for someone who starts out as such an unlikable character. The cast gel perfectly, obviously delighted at the quality of the material and it’s great to see the actors getting their teeth into such a great comic book.

Actor turned director, Jon Favreau, uses an assured hand to guide all the elements and keep them together. For a blockbuster movie, there is an even and welcome balance of character and spectacle, the human scenes never outstaying their welcome and the action never dominating the story. There is also a nice comic edge with Downey Jr firing as many one liners as he does missiles and rocket boots. But don’t worry, the action is still there. CGI is blended almost perfectly with the practical based action with three spectacular set pieces showing Favreau has the requisite action chops. Iron Man’s initial escape with the Mark 1 suit (intense and gritty), Iron Man taking on a couple of fighter jets and the robot upon robot showdown are all flawless in their execution.

Obviously my enthusiasm for Iron Man may overshadow any niggles but there really isn’t anything to gripe about. And that’s no bad thing. Sometimes is just great to see a movie so well made and so much fun, that why gripe about it? Action, humour, soul and a great story: this is what cinema is all about and this is what Iron Man delivers.

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