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Old 10-04-2008, 12:40 AM   #1308
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Default Re: The Official Iron Man Rate & Review Thread

Since this is the Review thread, I figured I'd post the one I wrote back in May.

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As a child, I hadn't read many of the "Iron Man" comics at all; instead, my primary frame of reference was from the 1990s cartoon series. So, I was both excited and nervous when I sat down to watch the latest entry in Marvel Comics' string of blockbusters. I'd seen the trailers and such online, so I knew there was a ton of anticipation for this film. I hoped than unlike some movies, this would live up to the hype...and that it did, in spades.

Stories of good vs. evil have been around since the beginning of time; this merely gives it a technological frame from which to build further. In this story, Tony Stark is similar to another billionaire: DC's own Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. "Batman". For example, both lost their parents at a very young age, and use their wealth and influence to fight crime. But the differences are present, and noteworthy. Where Bruce used a playboy persona to reduce attention to his life as a hero, Stark is a man standing in the shadow of a famous father, while living a life of selfish ambition and desire. He dates only the most beautiful women, buys things strictly based on their price, and drinks his cares away in ignorant bliss. But like Bruce Wayne, whose life changed when he lived among criminals to learn their ways, Stark also faces a change, brought on by an extreme confrontation with his own mortality.

As for the actors and their respective performances, I enjoyed them very much. Avi Arad (former head of Marvel) said that Robert Downey, Jr. was chosen because of his own downward spiral in both career and life. His past expereinces with drugs, alcohol, and the law made him ideal to play a character going through many similar circumstances. He plays the false bravado, arrogance, and genius of Stark with perfect clarity...and later, he amps everything up by playing the reborn industrialist as someone who's found his calling, determined to follow it regardless.

Terrence Howard is good as James Rhodes, who in the comics eventually becomes War Machine. A great moment in the film serves as allusion to that, and director Jon Favreau intends to pursue it in a planned sequel. He also admitted to cutting much of Howard's screentime for the theatrical release, but has assured fans it will be reinstated for a Director's Cut DVD.

Gwyneth Paltrow gives Stark's secretary, Pepper, a witty charm, daring strength, and tender vulnerability all at once. Ever the loyal friend, she risks her life to protect a man she trusts and loves in many ways. Even when under extreme distress, she never wavers, loyal to a fault. Jeff Bridges is cool, calm, and all-out insane as someone whose greed and lust for power control his every decision. He's like the master puppeteer, pulling strings from behind the curtain like the famous Wizard of Oz...and when he faces Iron Man directly, every hint of anger and hatred comes out, loud and clear.

The effects in this film are outstanding, to say the least. From a huge explosion in a Middle Eastern mountain site, to a "clash of the titans" near downtown L.A., this film makes full use of every weapon in its arsenal. High-flying moments are funny and bold, raising the adventure level that much higher. From brightly-lit chrome, gold, and steel, to lush parties and excellent costumes, the design of this film is great...makes me wonder what they'll do for the Blu-Ray release.

The music is mostly instrumental, with one notable exception: "Iron Man" by hard-rock band Black Sabbath, whose song was one of several inspirations for the character. Elsewhere, magnificent guitar riffs and synthesizer beats express the tone of a man gone horribly downhill, who's turned around towards the light. The danger, humor, and stylish themes rock this piece to its foundation.

Finally, my criticisms. Being my least-favorite part of any review, I include them as warnings for discerning hearts. While not as bad as the recent "sex comedy" trends, this film does contain a few moments which first-time viewers should be made aware of.

The first is probably the most central: Tony Stark's philandering ways prior to his rebirth. On one occasion, he beds a reporter he's known less than an hour, and leaves her alone the next morning. She enounters Pepper, who graciously maintains her own integrity while informing the woman she's due to leave. Later, when asked how she took the dismissal, Pepper replies, "Like a pro". Another moment takes place on board a jet, with dancing flight attendants who've knotted their shirts below their bustlines. The addition of an (unused) stripper's pole sets up a potential encounter, which thankfully remains off-screen for the duration of the film.

Another concern is the presence of alcohol. While not (yet) a raging alocholic, Stark is definitely fond of "the drink", often seen with a glass in his hand at one time or another. Though his rebirth definitely turns him onto a brighter path, Tony is still a man with many issues to resolve by the film's end.

My final concerns are violence and language. This film was rated PG-13 by the MPAA, and while it fits the film's content, I felt it was pushing boundaries in some respects (especially the sexual ones). Due to the nature of the story (a billionaire in a robotic flight suit, against terrorists and his own technology), violence is prevalent, though not extreme or overt. As for the language, it definitely fits with the MPAA rating, but that doesn't say much, considering the comics conatin little to none. The swearing isn't extremely abrasive (unlike films such as the R-rated "Matrix" trilogy), but its presence is felt.

On the whole, I give this film 8 stars out of 10, deducting two points for sexual situations and language, respectively. Unlike prior films such as "Daredevil" or "Fantastic Four", Marvel Studios made this film in-house, using Paramount Pictures solely for publicity and distribution. This afforded them greater control over the property, and it shows to an extent. However, while I truly enjoy this film, I feel there are wrinkles which need smoothing, especially if Marvel is to continue on a path of responsible integrity.

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