Sunday, May 11, 2008

Film Review: Iron Man

"Iron Man" ** (out of ****)

I walk into any superhero, comic book movie with a disadvantage. I don't like comic book movies and I don't know who these characters are. I don't understand their origins. So when many comic book fans praised the "X-Men" movies I sat in bewilderment. I didn't understand what I was watching. It was an illogical mess to me. I've usually made the correct choice and have stayed away from these type of movies after being largely disappointed by them. After watching the first two "Spider Man" films, "The Hulk", "Daredevil" and the "X-Men" films, I had decided to save my money and time.

But all of that changed with "Iron Man". The film opened to mostly good reviews, good box-office (currently it is number one) and generally good word of mouth. I was conflicted whether or not to see this film.

"Iron Man" in the end, gets one thing right. It takes its time setting up who "Iron Man" is and what lead him to become who he is. One of the problems a film such as this faces with me is, if I don't understand who these superheroes are, I get lost in the story. But "Iron Man" does such a good job explaining the story behind "Iron Man" that it forgets to be exciting and supply us with action scenes.

"Iron Man"s identity is Tony Starks (Robert Downery Jr.) a war profiteer, who after being captured by a terrorist group, learns the error of his ways. The very weapons Stark created to defeat terrorist, were the ones used to hold him hostage. The terrorist want Starks to create a missile for them which Starks has created for the U.S. military. After three months, Starks builds a suit of armor which will set him free. Or so he hopes. Thus is the emergence of Iron Man.

When Starks returns home he decides his company will no longer build military weapons. Which causes his partner, Obadian Stane (Jeff Bridges) much alarm. What will this mean for the company, let alone stock prices? A weapons company which doesn't make weapons. Iron Man is going to destroy the very weapons he created in order to make the world safe.

This premise takes roughly over an hour to set up. This film's running time is two hours. There is too much set up and not enough pay off.

The cast however surprisingly does an admirable job. But Robert Downey Jr. probably comes out looking best. A majority of the film rest upon his shoulders. Jeff Bridges on the other hand seemed a little stiff. His performance may be the most wooden from the entire cast. Perhaps while filming the movie he began to realize what exactly he had gotten himself into. There didn't seem to be much he could do to make the part memorable. But Gwyneth Paltrow, as a sort of "his girl friday", a loyal secretary, Pepper Potts, does come out looking better, doing the best she can to leave a lasting impression. Both characters sadly though are simply underdeveloped.

The film was directed by Jon Favreau, who seems to be heading towards the direction of becoming a director instead of an actor. Some of his credits include "Elf" and "Made". This film bears more in common with "Elf" being it is a film which will largely appeal to the same age group. My guess being the 10 and over crowd.

I am admittedly a little tired of Hollywood adapting these comic books into movies. Why can't people in Hollywood make better films? What started this trend for comic books? But, as much as I may dislike this new genre I must admit "Iron Man" was a step in the right direction. It may be the best superhero movie I've seen. Giving my past criticism, that may not be much of a compliment, since it wasn't a high bar to reach. But if screenwriters and producers can learn from this film and build upon it, who knows, maybe one day they will make a good superhero movie.