Iron Man (2008)
There are certain things from our childhood that stays with us all our lives. For a lot of us, especially baby boomers, it was the comics we read as kids. Back then there were two specific brand names that mattered; Marvel and DC. The DC universe had the more traditional set of superheroes and villains which included Superman, Batman and the Flash. Then there were the super powered people who inhabited the Marvel universe. There you got such figures as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Iron Man. They were very different from their DC counterparts in one very remarkable way; they were relatable human beings. Spider-Man had a pimple on the night of his big date. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman got married but had a lot of commitment issues. Then there was Tony Stark, the Iron Man. He was an alcoholic with a heart condition. These foibles only may these characters more real to us as we read about their adventures month after month. Sure they had amazing powers but they suffered through many of the same things we had in our lives. This allowed us to identify better with these characters. There have been a lot of films based on the superheroes, both DC and Marvel, and of late they have been tending towards more intense, human stories. One of the best to come around in a long time is ‘Iron Man’. This movie not only works as a super hero flick it does a great job as a straight drama and thriller to boot. This was one of the most anticipated films of the year with buzz about any detail flying around the comic cons for years before. It was also a major summer blockbuster raking in huge profits for the studio and rave reviews by critics and fans. If you are one of the handful of people who missed it in the theater now or you just have to have it as part of your home collection now is your chance. Paramount has released this film on DVD and Blu-ray and it is a must have. Forget the fact that this is a comic book movie; this is cinema at its peak.
You can usually infer quite a bit from looking at the resumes of the creative team behind a film. In this case the phrase ‘exception that proves the rule’ comes to mind. While the director and writers have experience little in their past projects would indicate that a film as well crafted as this would come out. This is not intended in a negative way; it is obvious that they just needed the right project to truly shine. Of course the original characters came from one of the most creative teams in the long history of comics Stan ‘The Man’ Lee and Jack ‘The King’ Kirby. They are responsible for many of the incredible storylines and characters that populated the Marvel universe. A team of four men are credited with the script for this film; Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. The later, Holloway, is the newcomer of the bunch with this being his freshman opus. Marcum has one thriller to his name. Ostby has a couple of screenplays under his belt including the science fiction thriller ‘Children of Men’. The same goes for Fergus who not only worked with Ostby on ‘Children’ but the other two scripts they’ve written. This does show that they work well together and are used to being a team; always a good thing. What sets this film above most of the current comic movies is the way the story is able to stand on its own. Sure you need the action and the stunts but you will also be fully engaged by the tale that is being told. The protagonist, Tony Stark, is a deeply flawed human being. He has made billions by creating weapons for the Department of Defense. His alcoholism is rampant and he has a serve heart condition that threatens to end his life. This is not the usual fashion to depict a multibillionaire on screen. Yes, he is a womanizer and quick with his ability to verbal joust anyone in sight but ultimately Stark is not happy or fulfilled in any way shape or form. When he becomes Iron Man he finds a means to redeem himself not only to the world but most importantly to himself. His alter ego needs to have a purpose in life beyond making a fortune selling weapons designed to kill people. This turns this film from a pure action flick into an emotional story of redemption and self exploration.
Another behind the scenes pleasant surprise is director Jon Favreau. He has been around mostly as an actor and is best known for his quirky performance in the 1996 cult classic ‘Swingers’. As a director he has done some flicks such as ‘Elf’ and ‘Zathura: A Space Adventure’. Neither of these movies even remotely approaches the scale and scope of ‘Iron Man’. Considering the studio shelled out about $140 million for this film they had to trust him a whole lot. Since the film almost made that sum back in the first week and more than multiplied their investment they made the right choice. There is a certain style that audiences have come to expect from a summer blockbuster. Usually it is hit them fast and dazzle them right away with the cutting edge special effects. All of these elements are in here but Faverau has gone above and beyond. He infuses the movie with a real story that will appeal far beyond the usual thrill seeking members of the audience. This is the kind of film that will be appreciated by anyone who wants a solid piece of entertainment. Having been a fan of the Iron Man comics since I was a teenager I have to admit that I had some trepidation when I heard it was becoming a live action movie. It is hard to watch something you have loved for so long come to the screen since more times than not it never lives up to expectations. This movie proved that feeling wrong. From start to finish I was on the edge of my seat. Faverau infuses humanity to this work that is simply incredible to behold.
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a genius when it comes to weapons design. This is not surprising to most people since his father was a ground breaking scientist in his own right. He lives a lavish and extravagant lifestyle that most envy. While on a trip to Afghanistan to demonstrate his new design for a cluster missile his convoy is attacked. Terrorist take Stark hostage and bring him to a cave. When he awakens he discovers that his chest was hit with shrapnel and one piece is dangerously close to his heart. Only a strong electromagnet is keeping the piece of metal from killing him. The terrorists demand that he build a cluster missile for them. Along with his fellow captive, Dr. Yinsen (Shaun Toub), they build a miniature reactor to power the magnet that is keeping Stark alive. They also create a suit of powered armor to escape. Yinsen is killed but Stark manages to destroy the camp and get away. When he gets back to the States he wants to pull Stark Industry out of weapons deign but is opposed by the board of directors. Stark diligently works on refining the design of the power armor until it is a wonder of cutting edge technology. He only confidant is Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) his trusted executive assistant. When another industrialist reverse deigns a similar suit Stark must become Iron Man to fight him.
This is the role of a lifetime for Downey. He has been one of the most talented and creative actors for years but this is a part that he connects with and sends it out of the park. His battle with his own personal problems and the need to rebuild his career has given him the insight need for this character. He plays Stark as a man who realizes that his life has to change drastically. What is also amazing is apparently the script was not finished by the time shooting started. As such a good part of the dialogue was improvised allowing the actors to fully define their characters. Downey gives superheroes a vulnerable side that we can all identify with. This is also a role where the superpowers are not by some accident that endows the abilities. Stark created his suit from his own genius. Also fantastic here is Paltrow. She has the combination of beauty and intelligences that makes her Pepper Potts an interesting person that you want to watch.
Paramount has gone all out with this DVD release. There are several ways to get it just make sure you chooses one. You can get the one disc DVD, Blu-ray or the deluxe two disc DVD set. The audio and video in all are reference quality and this will be the film you use to impress your friends with your home theater. This is a new bar for all comic based films to aspire.
Deleted and Extended scenes