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IRON MAN REVIEWED

Let's not pigeonhole Iron Man as a great comic book movie. It's a great action movie that also happens to have a comic book character in it. Favreau's lucky that he has a relative blank slate to work with in that Iron Man is an established character that doesn't have the burden of insane expectations. As long as they get the suit/suits right, an Iron Man movie has free reign to please without pissing off the masses by violating the gospel.

Let's be honest, Iron Man has been an action figure more than a great character for the majority of his existence. And the action figure part of the movie is gorgeous. You get a nice mix of real costume coolness from the legendary Stan Winston, and realistic CGI. Unlike The Transformers film from last year where it often looked like the camera operator had Parkinson's disease, Favreau puts together wonderfully composed shots that are easy and exciting to follow.

You get precision coolness with Iron Man dealing with a gob of terrorists with computer gizmos in a matter of seconds, but you also get the pleasure of watching him punch people over the top of buildings.

The battles against his enemy at the end are equally impressive, including an obligatory fight on a busy highway that still features plenty of new ways to beat the crap out of each other.

Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark is fantastic. A non-crazy Bruce Wayne that's addicted to booze and broads, and has a private jet equipped with a stripper pole and a sexy stewardesses ready to use it. But unlike Batman, he doesn't put on a suit to beat up criminals to deal with any fucked up psychological issues. He's simply trying to save his life, and eventually the lives of others.

He looks like he's having a great time playing Stark through the entire movie, and his enthusiasm for the role makes it just as great to watch. He's perfect for the part, and I can't wait to see him return to the role.

Jeff Bridges does an impressive job as Stark's partner Obidiah Stane. He's smooth, fatherly, and a total fucking bastard. Imagine Lex Luthor played without being an over the top jackass and I think you'll have a pretty good idea of what Bridges is doing with the character.

Terrance Howard is also good as Stark's military liaison, Rhodes, who serves as the voice of reason, and likely eventual armored partner in a future film.

We all knew Downey was going to be great in the role after seeing him in the trailer, but I was totally unprepared for how much I loved Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's longtime assistant, Pepper Potts. The character doesn't have a huge amount of screen time, but Paltrow is a fantastic actress who adds a lot of depth to the character. She cares for Stark, might kind of love him, but keeps a professional distance. She also looks fantastic as a redhead and is sexier than I've ever seen her on film.

The story flows well from origin to climax. The scenes where he's testing out his armor and getting used to flying are technically gorgeous, and full of some great comic moments that will never get old.

It's sort of a modern twist on the whole Frankenstein thing, only he's modifying himself. Instead of the moral issues of "how dare we play God" he has the moral issues of being the world's leading weapon manufacturer. It's great mix of James Bond, Batman, and Frankenstein in a way.

I really dug the technology in this movie. It was fully of crazy shit that doesn't exist, but could possibly exist. Remember all of those great touches in Total Recall like the fingernail polish that changed color by touching it? The airport X-ray machines and more? There's all kinds of fun things like that including:

-3D holographic models of the armor that Tony can stick his arm in and move around to test out the fit

-A gorgeously cool apparatus that snaps all of Tony's armor on

-A nifty paralysis device

-A robot arm that has a funny dog-like personality

It's also neat to see the stuff Tony can see and analyze behind the Iron Man mask.

Favreau has done a great job with this movie, and I can't imagine anyone would be disappointed by it.

My only nitpick is that when the film ends, we finally hear Sabbath's "Iron Man" play...but it's...a technofied cover version.

I got to interview Favreau a couple months ago and asked if they got the rights to use the song in the film, or if it was just going to be in the trailer. I could tell he was holding something back when he paused a bit and replied that though it's such a great iconic song, they didn't want to be "obvious", either. Clearly some financial/legal obstacle kept it from being in the final cut.

But if that's the worst thing I have to say about it, then you're in pretty good shape.

I'll be seeing it again.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

IRON MAN
(A BRIEF OPINION FROM A NOOB)

OK - so first of all I should mention my complete cluelessness about the character, the comic books, the backstory, the everything.  My advance knowledge prior to the movie was basically limited to the trailer. 

So: I enjoyed the film - probably about as much as any comic book movie adaptation I've seen, some of which I would have known somewhat more about.  So probably a B for movies overall and an A within the comic genre.

Iron Man has appealing acting from Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terrence Howard, a good set up, great character development for Tony Stark (all of his decisions are internally believable), neat action scenes early on (especially developing the suit), and better comedic moments than in most comedies.  And I enjoyed watching a movie of this ilk that requires some acceptance of implied scientific advances and their efficient application, rather than having everything rely on inherent superpowers.  What I enjoyed less were the villains, who were underdeveloped and flatter, and the later actions scenes, including the climax of the movie.  It may seem punny to criticize this movie in this fashion, but these later scenes seemed more mechanical - like they were there because they had to be to advance the story and not because they were as much fun or as engaging as the earlier scenes.

That said, it was still a fun ride and I would recommend it.

-Anthony Sheppard
tony@retrocrush.com

 


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