“Iron Man”: Keeping it Raucous

Iron Man

It was too packed. I always try and tell people on big opening weekends that we need to leave early if we want a good seat. Today every open seat had a hand resting on it or a purse. 15 Minutes before Iron Man and we couldn’t seat four people together. The next one was sold out. But the mall just down the street had one…2 hours later in line at the mall. I hate malls.

With the promise of stadium seating, leg room and AC only two hours ago I was thrust into a theatre with a screen no bigger than the size of my friend’s widescreen television set, my arms pinned together by the plastic arm rests on either side of me, leg room a newborn baby would love and a group of fellow moviegoers behind me only a deaf person would enjoy.

Within forty seconds everything around me disappeared and all there was was Iron Man.

True the writing and directing are whip smart, sure the special effects are astounding, but what pumps true life into this film, what truly brings every breathing moment of celluloid to life is Robert Downy Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark. When I first heard of an Iron Man movie more than a year ago I knew the biggest thing the film would need would be a Tony Stark…and they would have to treat him like the drunkard playboy that he is.

Certainly Iron Man is cool. What kid…or adult even wouldn’t want to climb into a metal suit and fight evil around the world? But to watch a hunk of metal fly around and shoot things for two hours would get old fast. You need a Tony Stark that’s human and flawed, that’s interesting, so when he gets in that suit to fight you believe in what he’s fighting for.

Robert Downey Jr. is one of those rare actors that can harness raw energy into a controlled performance and make it seem uncontrolled. He’s a rare breed that can appear on screen as both the finest of entertainers and most methodical of thespians at the same time. It’s a whirlwind of talent.

The decision to cast him was a brilliant one. Perhaps one of the best casting decisions we’ll see this year. But director Jon Favreau goes a step further and gives us a movie that mirrors Downey’s performance. It is the best kind of entertainment in that it’s incredibly fun and a great story. Something that last year didn’t always go hand in hand with the superheroes on screen.

To say the Favreau didn’t have something to do with the script would be ignorant. Stark banters with his trusty robots as Favreau verbally jousted with Vince Vaughn in Swingers and Made, but as my good friend says without the language.

There are certainly silly moments that play well to a wide audience, but there’s the ever so subtle jabs at other action movies, as one that my same friend pointed out when Stark tells Jarvis to ” stop telling him and keep it on the screen”. Oh, if only Transformers followed this nifty piece of wisdom.

I don’t always think much of Gwyneth Paltrow’s acting prowess. She’s good not great. Here believable and enjoyable as Stark’s female foil. She seems to do best when her intelligence over powers the emotional gravitas of the characters she plays. But my goodness is she radiant. In her, what is it now, 10 years as a star, she hasn’t aged a day.

As much fun as it is and as much as I geeked out during the credits about The Avengers and Sgt Fury (only to be surprised by a nice little clip of film after the credits rolled) the climax of the film didn’t wow me. It’s the Laser Room Complex. Remember that scene in Mission Impossible when Ethan Hunt is hanging a few inches off the ground, unable to move even the slightest because he’ll lose his balance and set off the alarms – then a drip of perspiration appears. It’s crawling down his glass, falls towards the floor, then a third hand suddenly appears and grabs it and everything is okay, and you sit in stunned silence at this floating hand that could no way be connected to Hunt’s body. It’s a cheat.

They put Stark into such a lose-lose situation in the final moments of the climactic battle that there’s no way for the filmmakers to get him out of it but to cheat. In a film that was pretty much awesome it was momentarily distracting and upsetting, but quickly to be forgotten by the final line spoken by Tony Stark at the press conference. It’s how I’ve felt at the end of each Spider-Man villain climax, or the final fight between Neo and Agent Smith in Matrix Revolutions. Hopefully they’re saving the big cool fight for the end of the second film. Minor thing, very minor. Thank you Marvel for producing your first film as this movie is worth enjoying, and I will be doing so a second time.

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