Friday, April 10, 2015

Iron Man

It's Friday people! And since we're coming up on the much anticipated release of Marvel's summer throwdown, Avengers: Age of Ultron, I figured I would go back and re-watch the three MCU films that I haven't reviewed yet. And what better way to start then with the film that started the Avengers franchise we all know and love, Iron Man. This is one of the few Marvel films that I didn't get to see in theatres, as I was out of the country at the time of its release. However, from my first viewing of this superhero game-changer, I was completely enthralled by what I was seeing. Most entertaining of all was easily the charismatic, and mostly unknown to me at the time, Robert Downey, Jr. Marvel has always done a great job of casting relatively unrecognizable or down on their luck actors in their superhero roles, which allows audiences to connect to the characters better than if a household name (like Tom Cruise, who was rumored for the part early on) had been offered the role.

Unlike the typical superhero film, which might begin with voiceover and a credits sequence to slowly immerse you in the new world being introduced, Iron Man begins with Tony Stark in a military convoy somewhere in Afghanistan to the awesomely appropriate "Back in Black" by AC/DC. This introduction tells everyone something crucial about the character we're about to follow in the span of about ten seconds... he's a freaking rock star! Tony Stark is a cocky, wise-cracking, billionaire playboy whom we just can't help but love. We only get a few seconds of his electric personality (besides a five-minute flashback to the day prior), however, before the humvees are attacked by an onslaught of gunfire and missiles, killing the soldiers protecting him and showering his chest with shrapnel.

He wakes up to find a device inserted in his sternum with a wire connecting to a car battery. It's pretty gross to think about, and the only reason the terrorist organization known as the Ten Rings are keeping him alive is so that he'll build them a Jericho Missile that he demonstrated previously. Trapped with a surgeon named Yensen, the pair begin to build, not a missile, but a suit of iron to escape from their heavily armed captors. This is actually the genius of this movie - each step of the Iron Man evolution is given adequate screen time so that we can actually buy into the technology being presented. Not only that, but Robert Downey, Jr. sells it in such a way that we're more entertained watching him work in a shop than when he's fighting against Iron Monger at the end of the film.

Every element of this movie is combined to perfection, complementing a character that would become the most popular in the biggest superhero team-up of all time. Not just Downey, but the supporting actors/actresses do incredible work. Particularly Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Pots, who elevates what could be simply a thankless role as the love interest and actually makes her something of an equal to the eccentric superhero in the making. Jeff Bridges is pretty convincing as both a likeable father figure to Tony, and also the menacing, cut-throat business man that will eventually don the Iron Monger suit. What's even more impressive is to think that most of the lines were ad-libbed by the actors, as the script was undergoing some problems thanks to the writer's strike in 2007. Thankfully, director Jon Favreau assembled a group of highly-talented individuals who could improvise believable dialogue that actually pushed the story along in an organic, entertaining way.

It wasn't just the talent on screen that made this film a success, however, as the technical mastery of the animators at ILM as well as the physical props made by the legendary Stan Winston brought the Iron Man suit to reality far better than most could have imagined. If every other part of this movie was as good as it turned out being and the Iron Man suit wasn't cool, this movie would have probably been just a modest success. But because the design of Iron Man looks so freaking awesome, it became the mega-blockbuster that it did and led to the rest of the MCU coming to the big screen. The frosting on the cake that gave the action scenes an extra punch was the rock-inspired score by one of my favorite composers, Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim, TV's Person of Interest, etc.). Even with Downey's terrific performance, the workshop scenes wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining were it not for the building rhythms and the guitar pulses of songs like "Trinkets to Kill a Prince", or "Mark II". He perfectly blends heavy-metal with orchestral flourishes with electronica, which is something the future Iron Man films desperately needed.

The only complaint I really have about this film is that the climactic battle is a little underwhelming. Iron Monger is presented as a bigger, stronger version of the suit Tony's been developing... even though we can clearly see that Iron Man is far more advanced. If it weren't for the handicap of a lesser arc reactor in Tony's suit, this fight would have lasted about 30 seconds. There are still some cool moments, like when Obadiah Stane grabs a passing motorcycle and bludgeons Iron Man with it, or when Stark uses his chest repulsor to make Iron Monger drop the minivan so he can catch it. But the whole scene on the rooftop is a little weak when comparing it to the rest of the movie. If there wasn't a really cool ending still to come, I would probably have dinged it a half-star at this point, but Tony can't help it at the press conference and has to tell the world, "I am Iron Man," making the entire audience cheer.

To sum up, this is one of the strongest comic book movies ever made, and probably my second favorite Marvel movie to date. It's right up there with The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it deserves additional credit for how risky a move this production was for Marvel. Iron Man is an incredibly entertaining film, and one that re-launched Robert Downey, Jr.'s career and gave us one of the biggest block-busters of all time. I give this movie a solid four stars.

Next week I'll be covering the other Marvel film of 2008, The Incredible Hulk, followed by the divisive Iron Man 2 on Friday. I can't wait to revisit those films, and hopefully you can come back to read those reviews too! Let me know what your favorite Marvel movie is in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

IRON MAN is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content