Thursday, May 15, 2008

Iron Man (2008)

Except for mild surprise that Tom Cruise was not able to lock on the Iron Man movie, I had no opinions of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark when the movie was just green-lighted for live action production. Honestly, I had Patrick Bergin in mind for the role back in the mid 90s when Marvel seemed to be hot on making a movie of their characters. The mustache was the clincher.

Thankfully I had no Hollywood producer to hear my choices because I loved the performance of Robert Downey, Jr.

I was hooked to Tony Stark in the trailer alone with colorful shades and his answer to being the Da Vinci of the time as “ridiculous” because he doesn’t paint. The answer had humor, arrogance, confidence, and maybe even a dash of humility (maybe). Not the swab, debonair type of playboy,Downey’s interpretation of weapons manufacturer Tony Stark was unexpected but a refreshing one nonetheless. It was a style all his own; and it was perfect.

Which is more than I can say for the portrayal of Jim Rhodes, played by Terrence Howard. As much as I admire Mr. Howard, seeing a few of his works; his voice was just wrong; reminds me of Mike Tyson. For Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) the bald head and the full beard worked greatly for him. Gwyneth Paltrow could be better but then again she’s just a secretary/personal assistant in Pepper Potts.

The transformation of Jarvis from the comics’ human butler to the movies’ Artificially Intelligent house was a stroke of genius; it gave Stark a separate identity from DC Comics gadget wielding hero Batman. It even enhances the character of Tony Stark as a technological genius, while, at the same time points to the tragedy of being a man “with everything and nothing.”

Iron Man has a nice pace to it. You won’t get that dragging feeling as the story was always moving. The movie’s high point is in its technology and action scenes. Tony Stark disassembling the engine of his Hot Rod; and later on his weapons to make his Mark 1 armor, certainly made me itchy for a wrench or ratchet even though I have nothing to use it on.

The film’s villain could be better. He may have played his role well but unfortunately the character was not developed well enough that he was menacing; someone that you could hate, but more importantly fear.

Ultimately, the Iron Man’s number one failing also came from the personality of its main character. Tony Stark in this film is a carefree character. He has humor; he loves women; he is arrogant; he just has this aura of just being a fun guy. Not a care in the world. This carefree character is so strong that his failings – the alcohol, the apathy in who he sells the weapons to, the lack of a real relationship – seem non-existent. Overall you'll get this general feeling that Stark always gets what he wants.

Even when he’s captured; when felt regret at seeing his weapons in the wrong hands, and later on used against civilians; even when he was obsessed with creating his armor; you won’t get the feeling that Tony Stark was never a broken man. As serious as he was in these very serious scenes the personality of the happy go lucky, billionaire, playboy, always wins.

And that is not entirely a bad thing. Who wouldn’t want to be a billionaire playboy with a personal plane and high tech gadgets? This film was a joy ride for me. And it will be too especially to those who like technology and are fans of the comic book. But if the franchise is to go to greater heights it needs to put more seriousness in the character and the issues involved in the story.

Weapons, women, and alcohol, are after all serious business.

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