Iron Man: Don’t Call it a Comeback
Not sure I buy the 92% rating on RottenTomatoes, but I will agree with the 78% on Metacritic. I stick Iron Man in that camp of managing expectations well (PotC good movie based on a theme park ride?) or Enchanted (good movie from Disney live action fairy tale?), because well–I was not expecting much and was pleasantly surprised.
Take a lesser-known comic hero, an actor turned director, a good but troubled lead and see what happens. The character being less known works in the movie’s favor, fewer fanboys to piss off about retcon or screwing up the canon. Actor-director with passion for the project vs. passion for the pay check can be what is needed to do a movie well.
Lead actor with a past is probably the biggest wildcard, but it pays off quite solidly here because Robert Downey Jr. has the chops, and the personal can add to the professional with this character. He, like Christian Bale, can bring genuine pathos and emotion to a role without hamming it up or be caught acting too much. He makes the pompous but fun Tony Stark likeable, even if a mass murderer depending on your political perspective. He also has the quick wit and presence to be believable, to evolve as a person before our eyes.
Origins stories are hard; there is a lot of exposition and set up, and therefore less drama/action–unless the movie drags by being too long. Iron Man does not make that mistake, instead starting in medias res then backtracking to introduce all the players.
- Director Jon Favreau has a cameo as Tony’s driver.
- Gwyneth Paltrow, as the Girl Friday assistant Pepper Potts with crush on the boss, was solid and refreshing…and didn’t have me screaming “Give back the Oscar” so that was good.
- Jeff Bridges, continuing to do solid work as supporting player (Seabiscuit, The Contender), goes bald to play Stark’s business partner and surrogate father.
- Terrance Howard gets very little to do this time around as military leader/close friend, but the Rhodes character is canon, so look for more from him in the inevitable sequel.
Yes there are the obvious flaws, such as:
Lack of retconning Stark’s father: he must have been 20 when on the Manhattan Project and fathered Tony in his 50s. TPTB should have made him grandfather, given that our movie hero theoretically was born say late 60s, early 70s.
Bad guy who can’t stop speechifying long enough to kill the good guy already, which is Hollywood 101, but still.
Iron Man has an interesting story with a grown, life-weary man turning hero, rather than a young kid. He is rich, naturally, but also smart and hard working in his own way, so we don’t begrudge him his abilities. The abilities themselves make sense more or less, from an engineering perspective, that make Iron Man a bit more relatable than Batman and his “wonderful toys.” YMMV.
I had given it a 50% chance of sucking major ass ala Craptastic Four, and an even split between being Meh to Good (Daredevil, Superman Returns); or Damn good popcorn flick (X-Men 1&2); or Wow, actually a great movie (Batman Begins). I’d say IronMan is a solid B or B+, but with real potential to become a great franchise.
Final Snark: a box office hit, sure to generate lots of money and sequels.