The first big summer movie has landed in theaters and Iron Man was huge (about $105 million worth of folks–with tickets prices today I believe that is twelve or thirteen people). If that were not enough, the reviews have been exceptionally good, especially for a comic book movie. So here is one more review, not quite as high as the paid professional reviewers, but not too far below.
First the movie summary: Iron Man is the story of the creation of the comic book character Iron Man. That is it. That is enough. It takes a little over two hours to tell this story, which travails jihadists, greed, and personal discovery, and frankly, it could have been twenty minutes longer and that would have been okay. Actually, it probably needed twenty more minutes to flush out some of the shallow areas.
OK. Iron Man is a good first film in what will promise to be another comic trilogy. You can see the pattern. Iron Man will no doubt follow along the lines of Spiderman and X-Men (and more than likely, the new Batman, and possibly Hellboy). The first film is good, but has some mid-level flaws. The second film is very near a masterwork. The third film, which many times seems to be the first by a different director from the first two films (I am looking at you Brett Ratner and your awful, awful films), is an utter disappointment that makes a lot of money and sends the series out on a whimper. An aside: of all the recent trilogies including comics and beyond, but not including Lord of the Rings, only the third Bourne film did the series justice (see or better yet do not see the third Spiderman, X-Men, Pirates of the Carribbean, the Matrix, Shrek, Friday, the Ocean movies (the first one is the best of these last five; they do not follow the comic rule, but that is okay because they are not based on comic book movies), every Fantastic Four film, every Rush Hour, every Fast and Furious, the Underworlds, the last three Star Wars, and on.)
The flaws in Iron Man are silly ones, mostly involving plot movement that I suppose could be explained away by saying “It is a comic book movie.” I won’t do that because I think comic books and graphic novels can be as high art as great literature, and I would certainly not let an author off the hook for poor plotting and so I won’t do it here. Examples, without being too specific, include characters not dying when it would be very easy to kill them because they are needed later in the story, main characters being precariously positioned geographically in questionable locales, and the most egregious, the building of something that looks nothing like what our main character is being forced to make, and being allowed to continue to do so. One other error that is less plot related and is more on the director, is that the passage of time is handled very sloppily. My wife pointed this out because it really irked her. Aside from people randomly stating things like ‘it has been three weeks since…’ it is very difficult to tell how much time passes in the film. In other words, the action and actions of the main characters is portrayed as if it could be happening in no time at all when really the story takes somewhere in the neighborhood of six months to a year to play out. Luckily for Iron Man, and for us, the viewers, these stupid errors mostly end with the end of the first act (except the time passage element), and the last two acts are fun, thrilling, clever and thoroughly enjoyable. They are why this series carries so much promise forward.
One area where I give comic books a pass is on their science or science fiction. What is done in Iron Man is out of this world futuristic, while being presented as the norm. This works for me because the special effects are fantastic without being too over-the-top. The science and the special effects really add a positive energy to the film.
But what this films holds up as its strongest assets, and what makes it show such promise for the future, is its great cast. Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic. He is so likable and smooth, and delivers a line with such ease. He was a great choice for this film, seemingly cementing the fact that all superhero, comic book-esque films should choose their lead based on acting chops, not on the most attractive guy available. Gwyneth Paltrow is also very good as is her chemistry with Downey Jr. My one complaint from her, has more to do with the presentation of her character. She is very smooth and smart in some elements of her life and very bumbling in other parts, which is fine, but it seemed like the situations in which she was bumbling later in the film were situations where she was smooth and smart earlier in the film. It might just be me, but I found this a little odd. Rounding out the cast are best buddy Terrence Howard and the mysterious Jeff Bridges (he may be the finest actor to never win a major award).
I would definitely recommend this film. I recommend it more for the future then for its current form, but either way you will have fun.