May 19, 2008

[Movies] Iron Man

I've been a Marvel Comics kind of guy for most of my life. I've nothing against DC or any of the other comic book companies - I just happened to start with them and things pretty much grew from there. I've always had an appreciation for many of the characters and one of those that caught my periferal attention was Iron Man, mainly because of the slightly robotic nature of a man in a metal suit. You do remember that I have a thing for robots, right?

I never bought the comic books apart from a few random ones that I got as part of multi-title packages, but of course like any other good comic book geek, I made sure to more or less know the basics about the character. I always found his story rather interesting given the character flaws they decided to give him over the years and it certainly made for a pretty well-rounded comic.

Now when they announced the making of an Iron Man movie, I had mixed feelings about it. I mean let's face it, Marvel movies are a bit hit-or-miss depending on how they're handled and the amount of focus that gets put on the CGI and other special effects as opposed to the actual characters and storyline. The initial previews of the movie certainly looked good, but of course it remained to be seen if the folks behind the film would be able to bring it to life on the silver screen in a manner that would be appealing to fans young and old.

At first glance, the casting behind the movie didn't make much sense. Robert Downey, Jr.'s movie track record has been some what spotty as of late and he's had more air time on the evening news than on the big screen. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fine actress on her own but personally I wasn't sure about how good a fit she was as Pepper Potts. Throw in the lack of a big name Marvel villain and little-known director Jon Favreau of Elf and Zathura fame sitting in the director's chair and you can't help but hesitate to explore yet another Marvel Hollywood venture.

Yet despite those diverse elements seemingly working against the potential success of the movie, I have to admit I really enjoyed it when I did get to see it. Sure, we were all expecting to be dazzled by the special effects and such but I'm not just talking about that - I really did like it as a complete movie experience.

Downey was pretty good as playboy industrialist Tony Stark and did a great job of essentially playing himself. We have to give that to him - he knows how to be sleazily charming when he wants to, haha. Gwyneth Paltrow may not have been the perfect replica of the original Petter Potts in the comic book, but she certainly did define the character well on her own terms and executed things well. You have to admit she was a pretty interesting character in terms of the overall film.

Jeff Bridges was generally okay as Obidiah Stane and the slight reinterpretation of his character was plausible enough. The Iron Monger was never really a stand out Iron Man villain for me so I wasn't amazingly enthused with that angle, but what can you do, right? I also was rather miffed with their choice of Terrence Howard as Jim "War Machine" Rhodes. Appearance-wise, I guess I can't find immediate fault. However, my issue is both simple yet simplistic - his voice. I mean come on - all the Iron Man / Avengers cartoons made sure he had a full-bodied voice that matched his sterner, gruffer military attitude. Instead we got Howard with his squeakier, higher-pitched voice. Oh joy.

In terms of story, the producers played it safe and stuck to the classic Hollywood comic book movie formula of Origin - Discovery / Mastery of Abilities - Confrontation. The only difference in this case is that it was rather well-executed and what came out was a solid story and not a haphazard special effects extravaganza. The Movie Preview Critic's analysis of why this may be so brings us back to the director with little or no action movie experience. Somehow by crossing genres from comedies / dramas, movies that are highly people / character focused, they bring a new spin on things and ensure greater emphasis on the human element as opposed to just making really dramatic special effects sequences. I have to admit, I find his theory to be generally sound and we've seen this success in recent movies of this nature.

Iron Man is not going to change your life. What it will do is ensure you have a good time at the movies and it'll definitely get you your full bang for your movie ticket buck. It has all the classic elements of an entertaining action piece in terms of stunning visual sequences and witty dialog that are sure to keep you preoccupied for the entire 2 hours++ of screen time. As much as you want to just wait for this on DVD, I strongly urge you to see this in the theaters with the best possible sound and projection technology so you really get to do this movie justice.

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