Thursday, May 1, 2008

Iron Man

While I love comic books, and by proxy comic book movies, it’s rare to find a character that’s captured this well on the first outing. The first Spider-Man film was good, as was the first X-Men, but neither series really showed their full potential until their first sequel. Indeed, characters like the Punisher and the Fantastic Four have both had multiple films and haven’t had a proper one yet. That’s why I’m so pleased that director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. were able to nail this film on the first try.

For those of you that aren’t huge comics nerds like I am, this is the story of brilliant weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who goes on a routine trip to the Middle East to demonstrate a powerful new missile, and is captured by Arab terrorists. His heart is damaged, but he manages to construct a suit of battle armor that manages to keep him alive and helps him escape his captivity. Once back, he clashes with his partner over the direction the company has taken, and finds (spoilers that should frankly be obvious to you) that his partner really doesn’t have his best interests at heart. The main focus, as with any superhero film, would theoretically be on the fight scenes, though there’s interestingly enough not that many of them. There’s only four battles in the entire film, as the rest of the time is taken up with actual character building scenes, and with giving us an actual sense of wonder at what’s happening onscreen, something that is in curiously short supply in these films where people shooting lightning from their fingertips.

Favreau is no novice to directing, but this is easily the largest budget he’s ever had to work with, and it’s refreshing to see that he never falters with it. Every part of the movie, from the camerawork to the special effects, looks and feels proper, none of the scenes drag, and nothing feels like it was just tacked on to give us an extra action sequence. This will likely be the first smash hit of the year, though judging from all the seemingly sure-fire winners that had trailers before it (Narnia, Indiana Jones, Incredible Hulk, etc.), it’s going to have a pretty competitive field shortly. I have a feeling that, of the three films I just mentioned, it’s going to be better than at least one, and stands a legit chance at being the best of all four.

Rating: *** ½

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