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Review: Iron Man

Iron ManSometimes the summer blockbuster season kind of meanders in almost unsuspectingly until it’s July and you realize you’re halfway through the season and you haven’t seen anything worthy of the phrase “kick ass popcorn flick.” Other times the season Rochambeau’s you as soon as the gates drop and you’re left elated and a little sore from the onslaught of awesome. The 2008 summer blockbuster season has officially started and I’m excited to say, if the season were to start and end last weekend, it would have been a great season thanks to Jon Favreau’s ‘Iron Man.

The general sentiment you often hear kicked around when it comes to superhero movies is that they want you to care about the character under the mask, not just wait for the next scene where he suits up. ‘Iron Man’ is officially the first movie where not only did I feel that way during it, but I actually wouldn’t have minded the picture at all if he never became Iron Man. While good direction and a well-written script play roles in that, the film’s success lies squarely on Robert Downey Jr.’s shoulders. He is ‘Iron Man,’ both in the character and in the overall spirit of the film. Downey plays Tony Stark, a billionaire weapons manufacturer who is kidnapped in Afghanistan by terrorists who want him to build them a Jericho missile. It is here that Stark, an alcoholic womanizer with seemingly little regard or thought for what his company’s empire is built on, learns first hand the damage that his weapons can cause and chooses to instead build an armored suit to help himself escape. Thus, Iron Man is born.

‘Iron Man’ is a total popcorn flick. The story doesn’t elevate too far beyond the action. It doesn’t spend time with Stark’s alcoholism or his metamorphosis, although when it does touch upon these Tony Starkmoments, Downey continuously proves why he is respected and revered. The film is really all about putting your butt in a theater seat and spending 2 hours having fun. The action scenes in the film are great: Iron Man’s dogfight with the US Army is exhilarating and funny. And the final confrontation between Iron Man and the film’s villain, Obadiah Stane, is impressive for a few reasons. First, Favreau’s use of CGI versus practical effects is alarmingly seamless: I struggled to see the breaks and the changes from shot to shot and only know that they existed because I had read interviews prior to seeing the film where Favreau noted that they were there. Second, it was interesting to see that Iron Man and Obadiah were not fluid or suddenly adept at using their suits. In fact, they were both a little sloppy when fighting. It was nice to see that approach: just because they donned the suits didn’t mean that they were suddenly skilled fighters. They were choppy, bumpy and sometimes ugly, but the fact that they were driven by their purpose came clear across (which is another good side note: directors, we do not need to see the character’s eyes, face, whatever, when they’re suited up to connect with them! That job can be done when they’re out of costume so that when they suit up, we care. I don’t want to hear any more talks about tampering with suits just because you can’t see the character’s eyes!).

‘Iron Man’ is ushering in a summer of action flicks (two other superhero films and a slew of fun adventure movies) and it raised the bar for what is to be expected this year. Is it the best superhero movie made? No. That title stays with ‘Spider-man 2’ so far. But it’s up there. Whether you want to see a man in an iron mask kicking ass and taking names or you want to see what a skilled actor can do when he is asked to carry a movie, Favreau’s ‘Iron Man’ delivers in spades. Go. See. This. Movie!

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