If this is any indication, this summer is going to rock.
Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com
Director: Jon Favreau
Notable Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrance Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges
You can tell how high up the superhero food chain one is by how quickly a movie is made about them. Superman, Batman and Spider-Man all have movies made about them before nearly any other comic book character because they are staples of Americana. Other famous comics like the X-Men come along by sheer force of will; there’s too much money to be made on the tales of Wolverine and company to not make a film about them. So after nearly every major comic franchise has been translated into a film, Iron Man finally comes to screen after even Blade got three films. But sometimes the wait is worth it, as Iron Man ranks as one of the top in its genre by being a character study involving heroes as opposed to being a film about superheroes.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a billionaire playboy who has made his money in his father’s business: arms and weaponry. A combination of Einstein and Heffner, with a drink in his hand all the time, we find Stark in Afghanistan testing out his newest creation: the Jericho Missile. Apparently the U.S Army isn’t the only one who wants it as Stark is kidnapped by some Islamic Terrorists who want him to build them their own Jericho Missile. Seeing his weaponry in the hands of evil men, Stark instead builds a suit of armor to get out of there. Returning home to the U.S, he finds his partner Obadiah (Jeff Bridges) to not be what he seems and the Iron Man suit of armor he developed becoming his next passion. Dealing with the issues developed from having seen the inhumanity performed with his life’s work, Stark has to drastically change his life while dealing with all the problems of his current one.
It’s an interesting film and Jon Favreau’s directing ability really has developed. Favreau, who also has a cameo as Stark’s erstwhile bodyguard, takes what should be an origin story and nothing more and develops a darkness about it that isn’t normally found in the Marvel Universe. He’s looked at what Christopher Nolan did in Batman Begins and emulates a lot of what he did for Iron Man. This is about a man losing his naiveté and opening his eyes to the world around him, the darkness readily apparent, and Favreau has a set story he wants to follow. It’s interesting to see how he crafts a character study into a comic book film as opposed to being a comic book film that attempts a character study. Favreau is more concerned with making a good film with good characters as opposed to a special effects marvel, which is a good thing. The film’s action sequences are jaw-dropping good, of course, but they wouldn’t have nearly as much of an effect if Favreau doesn’t develop the story and plot as expertly as he does.
For a man who has been relatively low key for his career as an actor, his directorial career has been markedly solid with Elf and Zathura being commercial and critical hits. His lack of experience as a director doesn’t show as he develops the film like a master. If anything, it shows that Favreau’s potential as a director is definitely much stronger than as a character actor.
But it would be for naught if he didn’t have Robert Downey Jr. in one of his best roles of the last decade as Tony Stark. Downey Jr. has taken some remarkably interesting turns as an actor since he sobered up; his drug addictions have lent themselves to several characters with substance abuse issues. It takes an actor with a lot of fortitude to pull it off and Downey plays Stark as a man conflicted by a lot of demons. He brings his usual sort of comedic charm to Stark but has the sort of dramatic chops to make us truly care about his success and failure. Downey brings perhaps the best performance of a comic book hero outside of Christian Bale in Batman Begins; he’s always keeping things interesting on the screen and the film feels lacking the few times he is not on screen.
Iron Man may not be a perfect film, but it’s awfully close. It’s definitely the best comic book film since Batman Begins and worth the wait.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):