Friday, May 2, 2008

Movie Review: Iron Man

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I went into Iron Man with high expectations. I've been looking forward to this movie since I first saw the trailer. Back when I was reading comic books, I was a fan of Iron Man and regularly followed his adventures. I've long felt he was a good choice for a movie since I thought the armor would translate to the big screen better than some spandex costume. I'm happy to say that the movie didn't disappoint. This is easily the best Marvel superhero movie since Spider-Man 2.

Unsurprisingly the movie starts with the origin of the Iron Man armor. In the comics, Tony Stark was in Vietnam when he was captured and forced to build weapons for the NVA. In the movie, Vietnam becomes Afghanistan and the bad guys become the Ten Rings, a multinational terrorist agency. Otherwise the origin plays out pretty much as it did in the comics. Once Tony escapes from the Ten Rings he returns to the States where he works on building a refined version of his armor while trying to shut down his company's weapons division, setting up a conflict with his business partner, Obadiah Stane, and finding out who has been supplying his weapons to the terrorists. More anal retentive comics fans may be upset with the change in the Stane storyline from the comics but I thought it was a reasonable adaptation and it works well in the movie.

Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as Tony Stark. I had my doubts when his casting was first announced but he totally owns the role. At this point I can't imagine anyone who would have done a better job. I'm not a big fan of Gwyneth Paltrow but I thought she did a decent job as Pepper Potts and I certainly had no complaints with her performance. I thought Terence Howard was okay as Jim Rhodes but I think I would have liked to have seen a more forceful and dynamic portrayal of the character. This is the man who took over as Iron Man during one of the times Tony crawled inside a bottle and he does eventually become War Machine after all.

My one real complaint with the acting is Jeff Bridges. Obadiah Stane should, in my opinion, be intense and perhaps a little sinister. This is a man who is utterly ruthless in the pursuit of his goals but Bridges plays him as a rather relaxed and affable person. If I wasn't familiar with the character from the comics, I probably wouldn't have any problems with Bridges performance but as things stand it just didn't match how I've always imagined Stane to be.

Special effects are excellent and I enjoyed the action. Especially the sequence when Tony dons his upgraded armor and heads back to Afghanistan to deal with the Ten Rings.

What does the future hold? I'll be very surprised if this movie isn't profitable enough to kick off a new Marvel superhero franchise. The next Iron Man movie will hopefully feature Tony's nemesis, the Mandarin, as the head of the Ten Rings. There's also some foreshadowing of Rhodey donning the Iron Man armor so perhaps we'll see a little War Machine action as well.

Now why are you still reading this review? Go see Iron Man!

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