Fans of the "Iron Man" will be ashamed of me to know that I never read a single Iron Man comic. I saw them on the shelves, but my meager allowance was spent on sci-fi paperbacks (they were like, 35 cents back then!) and Spider-Man. They will be even more ashamed when I reveal that most of what I knew about Iron Man came from Marvel Comics' short lived spoof series, Not Brand Echh, which in one memorable issue, pitted "Ironed Man" against "Magnut, Robot Biter." It was so funny that even 40 years later I still cackle to myself about it ... and yet it portrayed Tony Stark in the exactly perfect way Robert Downey, Jr. did in this early summer action movie.
Tony Stark, as we're introduced to him, is a hog. Rich, immoral, spoiled, a genius, and a man for whom success and having his own way are paramount. Stark is kidnapped, and in the dirt and blood of his predicament, discovers a moral dimension to his nature; in their violence and cruelty, his captors put a cap on his spoiled existence. But he will live his life his own way, and the need to succeed drives him to his escape, building a computerized armor from parts salvaged from the weapons his own company makes, weapons which have found their way into the hands of his kidnappers.
In the course of his escape, he blows his armor to bits, but the idea has taken flight in his brain: he's got to rebuild it, make it better, stronger, more versatile, and ultimately, use it to right some nasty, nasty wrongs.
His personal assistant, Pepper Potts, is not only lovely but intelligent, and played to as much depth as possible by Gwyneth Paltrow, who amazed me by her ability to move around nimbly in four-inch stiletto heels. I like Gwyneth. She's pretty without trying to look like a freaky Barbie doll, and can use her face to express emotions, without crumpling or grimacing it into melodrama. And I really admire her for not succumbing to the revolting Hollywood trend towards swollen, collagen-injected duck lips. In the pinch of action, Paltrow's character follows through with the technical instructions and saves the day. Go, Pepper!
Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane (that sleazeball money-grubber) was tremendously hatable, a must for comic book villains that you know from Word One are never going to repent.
Well, of course Iron Man is going to defeat the villain, what did you think? He has to, or else the world is going to be in big trouble. Would we go to the movies to see Iron Man get kacked? No! You better believe that Iron Man gets the job done in classic Marvel Comics style, the hero not all that invulnerable to hurt, the hero not all that perfectly integrated.
I can't wait until the next one. I hope there's a next one. There had better be a next one.
As soon as it's available on DVD, we'll own it. After all, I might want to watch Robert Downey, Jr. more closely as his Tony Stark mutters to himself over the precision tooling of his inventions.
Oh, and for those who heard that Samuel Jackson was going to appear in the movie, yes, he is indeed in there. You just need to stay alllllll the way to the end of credits to see him.
I can't wait to see him again, now, too.
I frequently like to remind the Piker Press readers that I am not professional movie reviewer, have no special, or for that matter, have not even a casual knowledge of how to make movies, and I am in no way associated with any studio or advertising agency that does business with the movie industry, or have any financial stake in any entity involved in the production or distribution of any movie, nor do I gain any profit whatsoever from the sale of popcorn, candies, sodas, movie posters, tee shirts, soundtracks, DVD's or pictures of naked celebrities.
What I have is the occasional seven extra dollars needed to secure a ticket to the Sunday matinee, and as such, may be of interest to the movie moguls who depend on people like me to generate the revenue they need to keep their kneecaps safe from the people they borrowed outrageous sums of money from in order to make their movies.
The producers of Iron Man had sunk $186,000,000 dollars into this movie (according to the Internet Movie Database), and so their knees may have been shaking as they awaited the box office results. But their fear was unfounded as Iron Man roared off to become this summer's first blockbuster, doing well over $200 million worldwide on opening weekend. Was it good? Yup, it's as good as this genre gets, by which I mean that Shakespeare it's not, but it is slick movie sci-fi fantasy.
Sand always does better synopses than I do, but here's mine: Boy loves Bomb; Bomb cheats on Boy; Boy dumps Bomb and gets Religion and wants to save Others from Bomb; Bomb's new Boyfriend beats up Boy; Boy gets really pissed and invents bigger Bomb to beat the hell out of Boyfriend and Bomb; in the process, Boy finds Girl who has always been there for him but he couldn't see her because of the Bomb.
If this movie distinguishes itself from all the other comic book hero movies, it's in the casting. Boy is played by Robert Downey, Jr. who does a fine job, Girl is played sweetly by Gwyneth Paltrow (who has a certain je ne sais quoi Girl-ishness about her), and as Boyfriend, Jeff Bridges turns in a show stealing performance á la Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor in Superman Returns. This cast salvages what was really a pretty weak script, breathing some life into some thin characters. Of course, with a good cast and lots and lots of really cool special effects, who needs a story, eh?
If I do have a reservation about this movie, it is that it has some stuff in it that may not be appropriate for younger viewers. Although not explicit by today's standards, there is a sex scene which cannot be construed as anything but a wild romp in the hay by two people that met only minutes before (a lust at first sight scenario). Granted that today we like to highlight the darker sides of our heroes, still some parents may have some fast talking to do to explain this one to younger viewers ("No, Billie, he's not hurting her. She was just demonstrating what Iditarod sled dogs sound like during the race.").
Still, it was a good movie, worth the $7.00, and was good enough to get me off the sofa on the porch to go the theater for an afternoon.