Toon Talk: Iron Man
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by Kirby C. Holt
(c) Marvel / Paramount
Marvel / Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Tired of seeing their classic superhero characters make tons of money for other people, Marvel Comics has set up their own film production shingle, with Iron Man, the first big blockbuster wannabe of the 2008 summer movie season, as their first offering. And if this one is any indication, it was a move they should have made long ago. And although you may not know this Iron Man from the Iron Chef, this is an action-packed superhero flick with a brain … and just the right amount of a sense of humor about the whole enterprise … that makes any ignorance of the character’s history irrelevant.
Perhaps due to the fact that the character isn’t as widely known as, say, Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk, preconceptions on this one are minimal, although expectations have been high thanks to a widely seen, hard rockin’ trailer. At this point in the game, we are all familiar with the familiar tropes of the superhero genre, especially with the “origin of” aspects that tend to bog down any of the first in the inevitable series of films. Director Jon Favreau (a long way from Elf … and Swingers, for that matter) seems aware of this, and wisely lets the story unfold at its own pace, not rushing to get to the money shots, of which they are plenty before all is said and done.
(c) Marvel / Paramount
Robert Downey Jr., as unlikely a star of a superhero movie as I can think of, is actually perfectly cast as Tony Stark, a Howard Hughes-like playboy/multi-millionaire heir to Stark Industries, a vast global weapons manufacturing corporation. At the start of our story, he is more then happy to blow things up simply because he can; he’s a rock star of the modern military world. While on a publicity blitz for his latest weapon of mass destruction in Afghanistan, Stark is kidnapped by a band of random terrorists, who want him to build them their own smart bomb. Wounded in the melee, Stark is nursed back to health by a sympathetic inventor type (Shaun Toub), who has rigged up a handy magnetic device to keep the deadly shrapnel now embedded in Stark’s chest from piercing his heart. Rescued from death by his own creation, and seeing the error of his ways through his new friend’s eyes, Stark sets out to free them … a plan that includes building a robotic suit, naturally (and thus the first of many subtle allusions to a certain heart-impaired, metal clad Tin Woodsman of Wizard of Oz fame).
Stark manages to escape, returning to his palatial mansion home in the good ol’ US of A, where his loyal gal Friday Pepper Potts (a plucky Gwyneth Paltrow), best friend/military liaison Jim “Rhodie” Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and computerized major domo Jarvis (could that be the voice of … Rupert Everett?) are on hand to ease him back into his previous life. But Stark is a changed man, and he doesn’t want to go on profiting from war, a fact that doesn’t sit too well with his corporate right hand man, Obadiah Stone (Jeff Bridges, all bald-headed bluster).
Building off the idea of his first super suit (a clunky, do-it-yourself style model -- think B-movie monster from space), Stark goes about designing the sleekest, coolest super suit ever … complete with flame-throwers, vertical thrusters and a “hot-rod red” exterior. Donning the suit and taking flight, he becomes not only liberated from the earth, but his past life as well, setting out to rid the world of the weapons of death he himself helped create. Of course, this being a superhero movie and all, a super villain must be added into the mix, in the form of a hulking iron giant of the Transformers school (I’ll refrain from identifying who exactly controls it, but you can pretty much predict it during the first ten minutes).
(c) Marvel / Paramount
Filled with crisp, nifty effects, Iron Man finds a nice balance between the somber seriousness of, say, Batman Begins and the cartoonish antics of the Fantastic Four movies, not to mention the melodramatic bombast of the Spider-Man trilogy. A lot of seeds are planted for future outings of ol’ metal head (not the least of which is a rather intriguing one smack dab at the end of the credits -- stay until the very end!), but after this first exciting episode, you’ll be more then happy to tune in next time.
Toon Talk Rating: B+
- (Cue theme song): Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer (Warner, May 9).
- Return once again to the fantastic world of lions, witches and wardrobes in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney, May 16).
- The man with the hat and the whip is back: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount, May 22).
-- Kirby C. Holt
-- Logos by William C. Searcy, Magic Bear Graphics
Kirby is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ... In addition to his Toon Talk reviews, Kirby is the creator of Movie Dearest, a blog for movie fans.
Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.
The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted May 5, 2008