REVIEW – Iron Man

BRAAANNNNUNNNNG…. I… AM… IRON… MAN… BRAAAANNNUNNNNG…

When Marvel took over their own filmmaking business from the various studios they’d been contracting with, I had my doubts.  When it comes to story, they’ve hardly been at the top of their game in recent years, with ham-fisted political euphemism and dumbass decisions (Spider-Man’s still alive?  Let’s kill him again and give him dildo arms!) clouding their work.

My doubts were unfounded.  Either this is the best move Marvel has ever made, or Robert Downey Jr. is a motherfucking sorcerer, his arcane magics making everything he touches awesome.

As Tony Stark, the titular Iron Man, Downey and director Jon Favreau focus on the human, as opposed to the superhuman.  The film is at heart, a character drama that happens to involve superheroes, heated battles, and evil masterminds.  Stark is a hard-living man’s man.  At once a peerless businessman, intellectual, and cocksman, he’s the ultimate playboy and pusher.  Speaking of Playboy, watch out for Stan Lee in his greatest cameo appearance ever.  Following the explosive opening scene, however, Tony Stark begins a transformation from philandering arms magnate to the ass-kicking, name-taking, shit-stomping one-man-army that the media can only coin Iron Man.

The film’s focus never shifts away from Tony Stark, and those around him, including Gwyneth Paltrow in her most endearing role in years as Stark’s faithful assistant Pepper Potts.  The spectacle comes not as an excuse for, but rather a consequence of the powerful wills and personalities at work. And what would a superhero film be without a hefty dose of spectacle.  From Stark’s initial capture at the hands of a nefarious non-denominational-taliban-surrogate group in Afghanistan, following a test of an impressively destructive missile called the Jericho, the fireworks don’t disappoint.  Jeff Bridges lends an utterly sinister feel to every word, motion, and action of Obadiah Stane, Tony’s partner at the reins of Stark Enterprises.  Sporting a shaved head and strongman’s beard, Bridges comes across as the corporate world’s very own Lucifer, a deceiving double-dealer who shakes your hand while stabbing you in the back.  The climactic showdown between the two titans in their metal monstrosities feels less like an effects showpiece than it does an inevitable confrontation between two men, larger than life, and there’s only room enough for one.

In the end, Iron Man lights a fire underneath its competitors in the increasingly-stale summer-superhero genre.  Robert Downey Jr. is no tortured Bruce Wayne, no awkward Peter Parker, he’s goddamn Iron Man, in the suit and out.

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