Who would've thought it could be possible? Take a
talented director whose biggest hit was the comedic and charming "Elf,"
and an actor on the rebound, and put them together in a summer comic
book blockbuster. The result was one of the most entertaining movies of
2008, "Iron Man."
"Iron Man" is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This review is on the Blu-ray version.
This most recent adaption of a Marvel comic book creation is a mixture of "Robocop," "The Rocketeer," "Superman," and a hint of "Batman." What seems like a retread on past superhero movies actually comes off as a bit of a pleasing surprise. "Iron Man" is self assured and well paced entertainment with excellent performances by the entire cast. The action sequences are filled with solid direction by John Favreau. Take almost any action sequence from this film and they easily measure up, and perhaps surpass, many of the sequences in Marvel's other heroic series, "Spider-Man."
One of the biggest surprises for me is the performance of Robert Downey Jr. He's been around since the days of the "Brat Pack" that unleashed movies like "The Breakfast Club," "Sixteen Candles," "St. Elmo's Fire," and "Less Than Zero." Downey always seemed, at least in my eyes, arrogant and unapproachable as an on-screen talent. He came across, even after the so-called heyday of the "Brat Pack," as a spoiled rich kid who grew into a spoiled rich adult. He usually struck me as cold and limited in his acting range. There was also the public's perception of Downey, Jr. and his personal battles. Here was a person with a gift who was squandering it away.
Yet with "Iron Man," (and "Tropic Thunder"), Downey, Jr. surprised me. He probably surprised a lot of people with his acting ability in bringing "Iron Man" to life. It's as if he wanted to prove to himself that he could be Tony Stark and the alter ego of Iron Man. Robert Downey, Jr. as a superhero? No way! The result is an engaging performance by Downey, Jr. Even with his Tony Stark persona in the early part of the movie, he's likable. You root for him and you enjoy it when he hands it to the bad guys. He's perfectly cast.
The film moves along with a brisk pace, yet still has some good scenes of dialogue between Stark and his friends. Despite a running time of little over 2 hours, the film doesn't drag. The action sequences, though somewhat familiar feeling, are still staged with effortless energy and excellent editing. Director Favreau has demonstrated he's more than capable of handling a variety of genre material. Favreau guides the piece successfully and allows his actors to show off their strong acting abilities. If there's a weakness to the film, and it's nothing that's debilitating, the final showdown between Iron Man and his nemesis is fairly predictable, yet still holds together. The "Iron Man" script is nicely plotted with shots at humor and suspense, trademarks of a good summer flick.
It's also refreshing to see that the movie, despite having a few bad guys for Iron Man to battle, doesn't get bogged down in the villain's back-story which has been a trademark in many comic hero movies of late. They're just plain bad guys.
The Blu-ray version of this film is outstanding in nearly every regard. The picture quality is sharp and filmic with appropriate film grain. What stands out is the the quality of the sound mix. Though I prefer an uncompressed soundtrack option, the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is stellar on this disc. There is clarity and lots of deep bass on this soundtrack when it's called for. It will challenge your speaker system, no doubt about it. This soundtrack gets LOUD! I highly recommend that if you don't already have a subwoofer to channel all the bass available on "Iron Man," get two (stereo subs sound better anyway).
The visual effects are mostly excellent, though when Iron Man throws some bad guys into walls, it does look too "CGI-ish." The Iron Man suit is cool. It puts the Rocketeer's suit and flying ability to shame (that 1991 movie featured a cool retro 1940s flying suit, so maybe this isn't a fair comparison). Overall, the visuals are outstanding and believable.
Obviously a lot of people felt the same way as I did in watching "Iron Man." It's a surprising, enjoyable and even watchable second and third times...or maybe more.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.
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