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Non-Review Review: Iron Man

I had a bit of a Marvel weekend this weekend, where I caught both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk back-to-back. I think I have to concede that I am – just slightly – fonder of the not-so-jolly green giant. Though they both are very good superhero films and a testament to what was a fantastic summer season. Iron Man was a stunningly well-put together movie on a hero who had – until the movie – been relatively second-tier and it’s anchored in an astonishing central performance from Robert Downey Jnr.

Gold-Titanium Alloy Man just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Gold-Titanium Alloy Man just doesn't have the same ring to it...

John Favreau has always been one of my directors to watch, but here he crafts a stunningly human superhero action piece. He eschews most of the blockbuster trappings of the genre and instead keeps it relatively intimate. He gives us a stunningly human central character who is faced with the fact that he is responsible for so much death and destruction and builds the movie around that. It’s a stunning place to start and an examination of responsibility that is perhaps a much more compelling and stronger motivation than the responsibility motif that ties together Sam Raimi’s Spiderman.

Of course, a character study is nothing without a central actor. Robert Downey Jnr. has deservedly seen his star returned to its former glory with this film and he gives us a conflicted man behind the mask. Reckless, rash and irresponsible, but also charming and earnest, his Tony Stark makes an interesting counterpoint to that other great conflicted billionaire superhero, Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne. The introductory montage informs us that Stark’s parents died of relatively natural causes and, as such, his cause isn’t so much a personal crusade – and Downey smartly gives us a central character who does mope or sulk. He is fun and acknowledges (in his recklessness) that flying around in a suit of armour should be fun. Shouldn’t it?

The movie benefits from not taking itself too seriously, but also not treating anything as a joke. Downey’s interactions with the supporting cast are dynamite and engaging and everyone feels used (in particular Jeff Bridges seems to be enjoying himself). Favreau’s movie doesn’t really focus on set pieces (though they are there), but he proves himself as skilled on large-scale brawls as he does with close and personal conversations.

However, for all the sparkling wit and originality that the film has, it still feels shackled and confined to the superhero formula – far moreso than the other great origin picture (Batman Begins) did. In the effort to give us a final confrontation, the film cops out and can’t give us a villainous motivation. It can’t even draw the character’s actions consistently. The sequences at the climax of the film are a spectacle, but there’s absolutely no reason for them to occur beyond the fact it’s the final ten minutes of the film. It just feels like it was tacked on. Which is a shame, because the movie does just about everything else right.

All in all, a very promising start to the new Marvel universe.

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Iron Man is directed by Jon Favreau (Made, Swingers) and stars Robert Downey Jnr. (Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love, Sliding Doors), Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski, Tron), Paul Bettany (The DaVinci Code), Terrence Howard (The Hunting Party, Hustle & Flow) and keep your eyes peeled for cameos from Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane). It was released worldwide on 2nd May 2008.

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15 Responses

  1. […] the time that The Avengers arrives on-screen, it will have been under construction for three years. Iron Man demonstrated the concept could work and that non-supernova superheroes could (under the right […]

  2. […] When it comes to the movies, the Court seems to suggest that it was fairly stupid in the initial agreement not to put an onus on Warner Brothers to produce a film or series of films, as is part of the agreement with Iron Man: […]

  3. […] not one of them. What happened to those blockbusters with heart? I’m sure the Ebert who loved Iron Man and The Dark Knight would agree with me on […]

  4. […] last summer spoiled us. Iron Man and The Dark Knight were a good fifty IQ points above your average comic book film. Wall-E was a […]

  5. […] (last year’s examples would be Wall-E, The Wrestler, Gran Torino, The Dark Knight and even Iron Man or Vicky Christina Barcelona). However, my problem with this approach is that it doesn’t […]

  6. […] Up and Night at the Museum 2). That’s exactly the same as last summer (Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Sex and the City and Prince Caspian). As a whole, the films from last year took more, so this […]

  7. […] (The Matador) and starring Richard gere (Primal Fear, The Mothman Prophecies), Terrence Howard (Iron Man, DreamGirls) and Dylan Baker (Revolutionary Road, Spiderman III). It was released in the UK on 14th […]

  8. […] Iron Man, it takes the offbeat casting and drives its own engine through characterisation. By the end of the […]

  9. […] based on the life of film maker and comedian Charlie Chaplin. It stars Robert Downey Jnr. (Iron Man, Tropic Thunder) and a huge ensemble cast featuring Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Pink […]

  10. Darren, i think we are two of the few who found The Incredible Hulk better than Iron Man. both movies tail off dreadfully about an hour in after promising starts, but i just found tony stark too smug to root for, even if downey jr puts in a great performance (i really cant imagine anyone else pulling it off).

    • I think Downey Jnr. can do just about anything. I think the fact he’s the first actor since Laurence Olivier to be nominated for an oscar in blackface says something about his charisma – even in what should (and in other hands would) be a thankless job.

  11. […] It had The Dark Knight and Wall-E as blockbusters with brains and The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man as blockbusters with heart. Sure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was pretty […]

  12. […] always on the chunky side, to be fair, and he’s been doing fine behind the camera with the Iron Man movies, but back in Swingers, Vaughn had the requisite skinniness to persuade us he really was a […]

  13. […] by Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson as a business rival and catsuit-wearing spy) in the new Iron Man film. There had been a lot of gossip about whether the loud-mouthed Oscar-nominated actor would be […]

  14. […] Man is so hot right now. John Favreau’s successful film adaptation has cemented the character in popular consciousness at least for the moment. It seems like he is […]

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