Saturday, June 9, 2012

Film Review -- Iron Man / Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard

There are many movie reviews that are long overdue on this blog, and Iron Man is perhaps the most such entry for me.  Released in 2008, this fun, high-flying superhero masterpiece by Jon Favreau will go down as the movie that kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe that links several of their recent films, and which recently featured the overwhelming success of The Avengers.  While I don't have as high an opinion of its direct sequel, this movie currently holds the record for repeat viewings in the theater for me, at 6.

Who knows how many times I've re-watched the DVD.

Iron Man has never been one of my all-time favorite superheroes, and at the time the film was released, Tony Stark was not one of my favorite characters due to his role in the Marvel Comics Civil War story arc.  I also didn't have the highest opinion of Robert Downey, Jr. at the time, but I will admit that I found the combination of this actor with this hero was highly intriguing.  Tony Stark was, after all, a highly successful individual whose struggle with substance abuse had damaged his standing before, which is exactly the same thing you could say about Robert Downey, Jr.  The premise was also interesting, and they cleverly used the Black Sabbath song in marketing the film, so I knew I'd end up at least giving it a shot.

It ended up being one of the most enjoyable experiences I'd ever had in a movie experience.  Robert Downey, Jr. was an ideal Tony Stark, making him both a likeable character and an arrogant bastard with effortless ease. The plot and action were highly dynamic and enjoyable; I don't ever recall being bored or restless during any part of the movie, including the origin story exposition.  I particularly enjoyed the idea of Tony Stark as a hero who has actively chosen to embrace his destiny as a hero, which is not a common telling of the hero's story.  After seeing how he realizes his unique position in the world to make a difference, his decision to pursue a hero's life of selflessly defending the weak is both easy to believe and get behind.

Not being very familiar with Iron Man's world, I also enjoyed how very accessible the film made the characters, settings, and actions in Tony Stark's life.  I knew very quickly that Pepper Potts was an important person in Tony Stark's life, as was Rhodey.  Obadiah Stane, I later learned, was a previous villain from Iron Man's rogues gallery, given a little bit of a creative facelift for the film, and he came off as fully realized and believable.  Stark Enterprises and Tony Stark's station as the premiere weapons development were also immediately and believably communicated.  For having read so relatively little about Iron Man in the past, I felt like I really hit the ground running with this film.

The blend of action and comedy made this movie supremely entertaining, and added to its rewatchability.  After seeing it myself and enjoying the hell out of it, I started taking any friends who hadn't yet watched it to see it.  Everyone enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it even more with each subsequent viewing.  Few of my friends were as stunned and excited about the famous post-credits scene as I was, in which Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury mentions The Avengers Initiative to Tony Stark, but everyone was pretty wowed by the actor's very brief appearance in the film.  I knew from the second I saw that scene that more movies would follow, including The Avengers.

Overall, I would rank this as one of my favorite comic book movies of all-time.  It's not only enjoyable, action-packed, and funny, but it establishes itself as the first part of a larger universe, which ties in with the lead-in films to The Avengers.  It's fun to notice and connect those links in subsequent films, and it lends itself nicely to repeat screenings, something I don't often say about a lot of movies.  Highly recommended.

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