Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Chronic Iron Man Review

Because absolutely no one demanded it, you must now suffer a full review of the new Iron Man picture as experienced by me, the David Lee Roth of Podcasting. And we begin...

I must preface my review by placing the screening in it's social and medical context. I saw this film after eating a substantial amount of Mongolian stir-fry. It was prepared by a nationally ranked stir-fry champion sporting a moustache that was also elite. I believe that said moustache was probably the 5th most powerful in the continental United States, slightly behind Rollie Fingers but inching ahead of the waning Tom Selleck.

Please also understand that I had been afflicted with dysentery that day. My intestinal contents had already staged no less than three separate coups that day, and guerrilla Mongolian stir-fry rebels did indeed stage a fourth assault on my savaged arse about an hour into the movie. So I should have been in a less than receptive mood for this thing.

Let me tell you that Iron Man was goddamn awesome.

I think that the two greatest pitfalls of superhero cinema are A) getting caught up in slapping in any name brand talent regardless of the fit and B) getting caught up in comic book origin elements instead of telling a coherent, satisfying story. Iron Man side-stepped both land mines quite nicely, thank you very much.

Downey (probably to his detriment) was born to play this role. A good Tony Stark must be able to simultaneously exude a talented presence while also representing a stone pimp. Check and check. Paltrow brings a nice quiet dignity to Pepper, and Jeff "The Dude" Bridges was surprisingly effective at bringing a sense of underlying menace to Obadiah Stane, even while sharing pizza.

It's not enough to have name brand talent in your film. Ben Affleck and Colin Farrell are both plenty good at whatever it is they do. Being Daredevil and Bullseye just aint it. Marvel was smart enough to put round pegs in round holes. Thank you for that.

Apart from Spider-Man 2, I think that Iron Man provides the most satisfying story that any comic-born movie has produced yet. Maybe it's even better. Without ruining too many plot details, the film is essentially an updated but centrally faithful origin story from the earliest Tales to Astonish material plus a leap forward into a confrontation that happens around Iron Man 200.

What's important here is that all of the character moments happen organically inside of a coherent story that moves forward and makes consistent sense. It's a formula that's just wacky enough to work.

I think the X-Men films in particular get bogged down in proving that they recognize all the "cool" character traits they came from, and somewhere along the way forget to tell a story that feels satisfying. What I mean to say is - take away the special attraction a comic book reader has previously attached to the characters, and would you really want to watch any of those films? I wouldn't.

Iron Man can absolutely be enjoyed by just about anybody, whether they have picked up a comic book or not. Whether they have previously cared about Iron Man or not. What Marvel was smart enough to do here is to find a charismatic guy with flaws and then build an atonement story around it.

You love to watch him make an ass out of himself, because he does it with such skill. You love to watch him try to rise above all that nonsense, because it makes him human.

And in the meantime there are plenty of action sequences (that also make organic sense inside of the story) and the special effects are top notch, which is what you'd expect from ILM.

While I'm busy sucking people off here, let me add Jon Favreau to the list. I have to assume that many of the choices I've been lauding were his. Let's add the four-headed monster of Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway as well. This was the writing team, and I can't say enough about their pacing and dialogue.

As I type this, Iron Man has been in the theater for 6 days and has grossed $220 million worldwide. This is going straight into Marvel's pockets now that they're brewing their own films in-house. They really assembled a perfect storm here, and it will surprise some to recognize that this movie is going to earn more for the company than all of their comics for the year combined.

These results are going to have Marvel taking in far revenue than projected, as predicted in Market Spotlight a few months back. Had you taken the advice and bought up some MVL stock back then, you'd have taken a nice little ride from $28 to $33. If the Hulk film delivers similar numbers, expect that to spike even further.

More importantly, though, we must recognize the unique talents of Sarah Cahill, also known as "Hot Stewardess # 3". No truer title could have been chosen. She's the blonde hot stewardess, was Miss Minnesota in 2003, and was created in a lab dedicated to producing Hot Stewardesses in Waseca.

To recap, Iron Man gets five lumps of scrap Palladium out of five. See it. Love it. And pray that Hulk is even close to this good...

- Ryan

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