Wayback Review: Iron Man

[Since Green Man Review is just a memory, let’s revisit my review of Tony Stark’s first MCU joint, shall well?  From GMR, 6/11/2008.]

iron-man-posterI’m sorry. This is the fun-vee. The hum-drum-vee is back there. — Tony Stark

Another summer, another super-hero movie. Mask, cape or utility belt, the idea of one more homage to comic books leaving you a little overdosed? Don’t worry. Iron Man puts the fun back into the superhero genre. And it’s about time.

For those of you who aren’t up on the comic (or haven’t seen a tv or movie trailer in the last year or so), Iron Man is billionaire arms manufacturer Tony stark. A suave, womanizing, hard-partying playboy who earned his money the old fashioned way, by inheriting it. Stepping up to helm Stark Industries at the ripe old age of 21, the child prodigy developed toys the big boys couldn’t wait to play with. Unfortunately, they also tended to show up in the clutches of the bad guys. And when an all-grown-up-now Tony takes a tour of Afghanistan, he’s attacked and wounded with his own munitions, a hunk of which ends up lodged in his heart, inoperable. With the help of advanced magnetics and Tony’s know-how, he creates a device that keeps that piece of steel from piercing his heart, and also creates a way to get back at his captors. How, you ask? Cue Black Sabbath: dum, dum, dum dah dum . . . why, it’s Tony Stark as Iron Man! The suit gets more and more advanced as the movie goes on, which is a nice touch considering the many changes the suit has gone though in comic form over the past 40 years. But it’s not all smash-and-burn. There’s corporate power-plays, gravitas galore as Tony struggles to find his way after his near-death experience, and even some serious belly laughs (mostly at Tony’s expense.) Not to mention a little Tony and Pepper chemistry, which should play out nicely in future films. Oh, what’s that? Yeah, a sequel is coming. So get on board. Don’t wanna miss the start of this ride.

One thing; to the whiners that thought Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t going to do a good job as Tony Stark? Step away from the keyboard, and walk slowly away from your momma’s basement. You don’t know anything about good old Tony. Tony Stark’s hard-living, booze-addled (“Give me a scotch. I’m starving.”) past mirrors the actor’s own life. Plus, anyone who’s seen Chaplin, Restoration or even Gothika knows the man can take just about any script and make it look good. So he pulls off Tony’s cocky, self-assured bravura as well as the pain, fear and uncertainty of being held hostage. My favorite scenes are when Tony interacts with the robots he’s created, taking anthropomorphism to a whole new, hilarious, level. Gweneth Paltrow does a fine job as Pepper Potts, Tony’s Gal Friday. She even dyed her hair strawberry blonde, and can work a pair of stilettos like nobody I’ve ever seen. To use a worn-out expression that still holds true, she classes up the joint.

Terrence Howard plays Jim Rhodes, Tony’s put-upon friend who is a pretty capable good guy himself. A Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force and chief liaison to Stark Industries, he’s hip-deep in trying to save the world already. When Tony becomes Iron Man? Rhodes is there to lend a hand. And a good deal more . . . but then I’m getting ahead of myself. Read the comic book, all I’m sayin’. Jeff Bridges rounds out the top cast of characters as Obadiah Stane, a friend of Tony’s father and board member of Stark Industries. When Tony comes back from Afghanistan, Stane becomes more and more concerned about the leadership and future of Stark Industries. And you don’t want people with access to massive amounts of arms technology to get overly concerned. Unless you’re sitting in a theater watching it all. Then? Bring it on! And Iron Man does, in spades.

Story-wise, the tale is what might best be called a Year One story; the start of Tony Stark’s life as Iron Man. So you’re getting alot of exposition, and a huge amount of setup regarding character loyalties and drives. It’s shot beautifully, with plenty of wide-angle views so folks can take in the sweeping, violent beauty of Afghanistan as well as the gorgeous views of Southern California. The effects in this movie are absolutely astounding, as you’d hope they’d be for a summer superhero blockbuster. The opening scene of Tony Stark’s army caravan driving down the desert to their attackers, is balls-out, in-your-face realism that is shocking in it’s depiction of the brutalities of war. I thought of Saving Private Ryan, except on a smaller scale, which made it much more intimate and affecting. The only thing that snapped me back into reality was a very obvious product placement right after Tony stark gets back to the good old U. S. of A. He’s craving a burger, and voila! Burger King to the rescue. Even billionaire heroes need a Whopper every once in awhile I guess. I’ve been there. The Whopper, not the money, though I wouldn’t mind trying the latter, y’know, just to see if it fits.

Speaking of heading back to reality, don’t head out of the theater until the very last bit of the credits flash before your eyes. There’s a final scene with Tony, and if you know your Iron Man, it’s a doozy. My friends and I stood up and shouted — “Yeah, Baby!” may have been it — and left the theater with a huge grin on our faces. If you’re new to this whole shebang? Aw stay anyway. Three words: Samuel. L. Jackson. Shut yo’mouth.

Go, see it. See it in the largest theater you’re able to get to. Because big booms go better with big screens. With larger-than-life actors playing larger-than-life characters and special effects that’ll have you going “that’s gotta be real, right?”, Iron Man has thrown down a heavy gauntlet for the rest of this summer’s blockbuster wannabes to pick up. C’mon, hop in the fun-vee. You’ll be glad you did.

[Denise Dutton]

Want more? Of course you do. Check out the film’s offical Web site. Plus, word out on the street is that Mr. Stark makes a brief appearance in this year’s Incredible Hulk re-do. And in case you haven’t heard already, the Iron Man sequel? Already slated for 2010. Zoom!

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One Response to Wayback Review: Iron Man

  1. Katy says:

    Fun review! I remember seeing this in theaters a bunch of times, and it was a blast. The sequels are a little less interesting/entertaining, but the first one is great.

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