Hands down the best Marvel movie out there.
Director: Jon Favreau (Zathura, Elf)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content)
What I Expected: A typical, mediocre-at-best, predictable Marvel movie.
What I Got: A Marvel movie that felt like the first candid attempt at proper cinema.
Appeals To: Iron Man fans, action movie fans, Robert Downey Jr. fans, and anyone who wants to watch a fun blockbuster movie.
We’ve all done it. We watched the quality of the X-Men films degrade, then we watched the quality of Spider-Man films degrade. We watched other Marvel legends such as Daredevil, The Incredible Hulk, Electra, and Ghost Rider grace the silver screen only to leave the theater – or your couch – knowing you’ll never have those two hours of your life back but wishing you can at least forget the movie ever existed. The better ones were based on the more popular franchises, and in hindsight were popcorn flicks. They were enjoyable while they were hot, but you probably only cared enough to watch the DVD once. When I saw the Iron Man previews, I smirked to see them, but I went into the theater with the same skepticism I hold for Marvel films as I do for most blockbusters.
Then here comes a knight in shining red-and-gold armor with a missile launcher in his cuirass to blow that premonition to soldering, smoky shards.
As I stood on the concessions line, I discussed one of the hallmarks of a typical Marvel movie: the long splash of credits to some of the original comic art and/or some CGI of related art with some typical movie soundtrack fanfare. Quickly and loyal to character, Iron Man breaks this tradition. What’s the first thing you see? Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, in your face cracking jokes with a tumbler of whiskey in his hand. Not too long after being able to laugh and love the character, the action explodes and you’re treated to the only thing you need from the opening of a movie, IRON MAN in huge letters across the screen. The movie even skips over putting any kind of credit in the beginning; unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know the powerhouse cast of Robert Downey Jr., Terrance Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow.
And what a cast! Howard, Bridges, and Paltrow all give stellar performances, but the spotlight clearly belongs to Downey Jr. I question the fool who didn’t want to cast Robert Downey Jr. for the role he’s perfect to play. Not to rob credit from some of the better actors in the Marvel films, but Downey Jr.’s performance stands out above all others, probably due in part to the complexity of Tony Stark. Yes, he’s a playboy millionaire with a devil-may-care attitude, but the transformation of Tony Stark to Iron Man is the most organic of all Marvel heroes – it’s sudden, but by all means comfortable and justified. Unlike heroes who awkwardly stumble into their super powers, Stark pioneers into it, judging for himself what needs to be done and clutching firmly the beacon of power. While he retains that charismatic, confident attitude, it’s still evident that he cares about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.
That same unique quality in Stark is evident in all the main characters. While every character fits into a role and doesn’t act fickle on their personalities, there’s more to each character than their mannerisms and behavior let on, allowing their actions to speak for them in the end; each character is deep without being complex or flighty. Saying more would spoil it, so let me just say that the actors and actresses play their roles well without feeling one-dimensional or not paying attention to the plot.
Technically, this movie is beautiful. The costumes aren’t the corny leather outfits of X-Men or Daredevil, and while Iron Man is CG, it’s not to the same overused CGI close-up shots and clichéd zooms of Spider-Man or Ghost Rider. The Iron Man Armor looks like a sports car that you wear, a dream for any man. When he’s in action, he takes presence and knocks heads without having to use the gimmicky slow motion effects that end with hazy, inorganic action sequences with computer cartoons.
Speaking of the other Marvel films, Iron Man sits comfortably between a hit franchise and a popular jobber. If you’re a fan of the Marvel heroes, you probably knew Iron Man, and you probably gave him more attention than you did many of the other heroes who were usually just cameo appearances in X-Men or Spider-Man, even though he’s not quite an X-Man or Spider-Man. This makes Iron Man perfect film material – we know him, but we’re not so familiar of him that we expect something that can’t happen. It’s a comfortable modernization, considering Iron Man already had one done to him before.
Perhaps another attribute to the quality of this film is that it is the first movie produced solely by Marvel, by the people who made the comics for the love of the art, not by a third-party production company looking to fill seats with a well-known name. You know the artists took precedence over the technical graphics pushers. Without spoiling too much, you even get to see some really funny – albeit messed up – in-jokes and Iron Man references. Do yourself the favor of staying until after the credits, and you pulp film fans and comic geeks will thank me.
It is all the attention to detail, Iron Man takes the trophy for the best Marvel film to date. Nothing else compares in the fields of acting, art direction, and special effects. Iron Man blows up the bad guys, and he’ll easily blow up the low expectations hooked onto Marvel films and give you an experience you will truly fall in love with.
~ Setsuna Setsunai