Iron Man

Even before stepping into the cinema hall, i knew the only way to enjoy this movie is if you're either (A) a FAN-Boy or FAN-Girl (FB/FG), or (B) the General Public (GP) - I have left out the distinct category of any wannabe-celluloid scholars or thespianed-traditionalists, who seeketh celluloid enlightenment and brilliance in a fantasy-make-belief world on the Silver Screen, who would perhaps find this movie a harder morsel to swallow (based on the numerous detractors I've been reading in local print) - especially with a predictable plot filled with bullet holes, somewhat cheezy-dialog and even a sheer lack of common sense - much less enjoy for what it is, which is a live-action adaptation of a comicbook superhero character who wears an iron-suit of armor (oops, excuse me, "titanium alloy") who can fly and beats down on bad guys ... BUT that is not to say that this movie is brainless or without recourse, NO - for this IS a smart film on the brill-side, with a thumping heart at the core of it (Arc Technology or otherwise :p).


And if you be a fan, I am happy to say that you may not be disappointed, and perhaps even surprised at the thoroughly enjoyable ride (at least I did) - with the taste indeed sweet and perhaps even with a memorable lingering after-taste, manifest by that smile on your face and even a spring in your step (Repulsor-technology, notwithstanding, of coz). And if you be an esteemed member of the General Public who happen to wonder by this blog? All I dare say to you folks is - to prepare yourselves for a really cool ride, IMHO :)

REMEMBER TO WATCH THE MOVIE UNTIL AFTER THE CREDITS ROLL, for a "Surprise Prologue Sequence" - and it's a doozy, IMHO :)

INTRO

The anticipation of watching the IRON MAN Movie had kept me awake for the better part of the early morning, until I popped awake barely enough to make it to a 11:30am-screening at Cathay @ Downtown East E!Hub. The journey took less time than it was to wait for the bus. A cinema 15 minutes away from home is a very welcomed development indeed and a precursor to more expenditure, I reckon :p

Superhero/Comicbook-adapted movies has come to the forefront of the general consciousness and media acceptance (altho not totally "understanding-of") and has never been as hyped and marketed as they do in this day and age, what with multiple Viral marketing, promotions and a deluge of coverage that threatens to engulf online netizens (least of me my humble blog LOL) who dwell in this particular www-realm, for sure the genre is carving out it's own niche in celluloid-history, it remains some time before it's acceptance into the pantheons of "recognized filmmaking" (via the traditionalists and thespians) is as accepted and welcomed, as the fans of this genre, IMHO. With vaulted peers as The Dark Knight, Hulk, The Watchmen and it's ilk, IRON MAN stands poised to go down in history as the movie that did ... as for what it actually did, I'd only dare to speculate on it's intent and reactions, by my own personal opinion. And hopefully, when YOU folks have seen the movie, we could all geek-out over it together :)

GOOD TRIUMPH OVER EVIL

GP will no doubt be entertained "effortlessly" with this feel-good morality tale. Good heart triumphs over Evil. With loads of hi-tech and a tinge of (both manufactured and natural) sass thrown in for good measure. But of coz this is my own biased opinion, and it is hard not to be biased, as evident in my coverage of the movie's progress on this blog and the dedicated fanblog, innit? So i'd not pretend much to know what it truly feels to watch this as a third-party observer.

In the ideal-www-world, I would have the funds and/or ability to invite varied members of the public (ie: folks who don't give a shit) and reader-fans (ie: friends who give a shit and reads my blog too LOL) to watch this flick together, followed by a rousing post-mortem session, but alas, my resources are practically non-existent and here I am going on about my lone experience of the movie... heh.

FANMOVIE

To wax lyrical about the coolness of this fanboy-movie would be "tricky" - because there is very little one could do to pull a fast one over a FB or FG. To me, the filmmakers and actors had fun doing this, and it came out feeling so too, not that it was tomfoolery all around, but the vibe and jazz seeped thru, IMHO. There is a subtle spring in every step, a nod here and there, and the occasional *wink-wink* without the obvious in-your-face-wink-wink, that perpetuates comedies or even Rom-Coms.

Although, make no mistake, this is not a Comedy (per se). This is a straight forward dramatic telling of a story of a Man's fall from his charmed pedestal in life, to the redemption of his soul, via technologies that empowers him, literally. Tinged with both good natured and dark humor. A Vwry nice mix indeed, IMHO. And remember, this is a live-action adaptation of a comicbook character, understandably not as well known as say, Spiderman, Superman or Batman - but well known enough by his fans, and perhaps providing more leeway in terms of development, without the burden of past history (IMHO) - NOT to say tis warranted a discount on quality, for this product is an excellent example of said product done right. And for sure, FBs and FGs are not forgotten in this incarnation.

NODMENTS & AUTHENTICITY

"Nods" pepper the film. From the Mandarin-inspired "Ten Rings" = the name of the terrorist organization which kidnaps Stark (for the uninitiated, one of Iron Man's main foe was The Mandarin, who wielded ten rings of differing powers) - to Stark's mildly-sarcastic A.I. with a British-lit named "Jarvis" (Jarvis was the name of The Avenger's butler - someone mentioned "Paul Bettany" but I've yet to be able to find a confirmation for tho).

EFFECTS

It's a fun ride because it felt authentic to the source material. The suspension of disbelief is especially tricky for a film such as this, which I felt was carried off effortlessly (as mentioned above) - primarily due to the special effects, which were convincingly addictive. I'd stopped trying to pick apart the effects the moment I saw MARK-2 glistening in the workshop's spotlights. It was subtly oblivious and a wonder to behold, so much so I'd stopped looking out for them, and just went along with the ride. And the more I saw, the more I wanted to see.

CG-effects and real-life mecha-constructs merge as one. Besides the obvious flying sequences, the "Armor-On" and armor-specific sequences were exceptional and had this fanboy's heart pounding (no, I will not confirm woody-status). Kudos to Stan Winston and Co. Nothing more I can add to the gushing already, I reckon. Dammit, if only the toys were just as awesome, IMHO :p

PACING A COMICBOOK MOVIE

The pace was pretty evenly spaced out, which helped the film "breathe", I reckon. The set pieces were insanely FB-cool, especially with the MARK-3. When the fully-functioned armor was put thru the test in foreign soil and being intercepted by the US Air-force. The final confrontation with the Iron Monger was too short (but because I am greedy) and ultimately ended sooner than expected, and perhaps less than satisfying, but only in terms of duration, for the actual fight was pretty fast and furious, and to the blunt-point, as one may expect from a coupla dudes decked out in high-tech battle-armor - no nancy-boy shennanigans, this, IMHO ... although I wondered, how the heck are "they" going to top that? LOL - But I appreciated that it was a straight forward slugfest and beatdown, without intellectualizing it too much (Villain monologing notwithstanding).

BELIEVING ORIGINS

A problem that perhaps quite a number of past flicks fall trap to = "over-intellectualize" the origins of the powers and story, trying to explain it to the masses and the hardcore theorists, while loosing it's wonder and awe of a fictional fable of people imbud with powers beyond mortal men. No, I'm not saying glossing over the story and take the viewers as idiots to be fed byte-sized deep-fried nuggets, but neither is feeding them a posh steak going to help them digest it better, IMHO.

SUPERHERO MOVIES ARE FASTFOOD

If push came to shove, I'd consider superhero movies, hamburgers instead. Fast food / Junk food, no doubt, but enough as a meal, without any guilt of expenditure or excuse needed for it's consumption. For as sure as Tony grabs a cheeseburger out of an obvious Burger King paperbag (enroute to his press conference after being rescued from terrorists), this film came out as a satisfying meal, flippantly so.

For the fans, there is already a built-in understanding of the story and how the plot moves, front or back - the Opening Sequence with the flashback is comicbook-worthy and inspired, I have to say, which i relished with abandonment LOL.

FORESHADOWING

Attempts to discover "Foreshadowing"-elements of the movie, would perhaps be pure speculation on my part - but hell, tis fun to speculate (at least for a FB) and one of the many include Stark holding unto a glass of liquor in the opening sequence, and even Jarvis asking Tony (after MARK-2's test flight) about compensating the armor for outer-space adaptability (Skull/Kree-War anyone?)

CONFESSIONS OF A NON-TRUE IRONMAN FAN

I've never been what may be called a true hardcore-fan of Iron Man. In fact, i've always felt he was pretty weak as a superhero, not becoz of his technology-based powers, but of his limitations due to said technology. In the "powers" arena, once the juice runs out, or better still, an EMP hits (Electro Magnetic Pulse), dude's left with a heavy clunker of an armored suit, struggling to stand straight with the weight of the suit, no less. So the charisma of the character lies with who wears it instead, innit?

THE MAN IN THE IRON ARMOR

And for sure, Tony Stark's comicbook character-arc is not too multifaceted, and may even be argued to be 2-dimensional (IMHO), so there really isn't a stretch of imagination to see him "develop" or even evolve (current comicbook incarnation circa Civil War notwithstanding). With this movie, it is simply "Pre-Terrorist-Capture" and "Post-Enlightment-Upon-Escape" - Stark "grew" during his period of capture, and "evolved" along with his tech, so to speak.

And with this, i have to admit, the Iron Man character (as much as it wowed me) took a slight second seat next to Tony Stark (weird primpy eye-liner/lash makeup on Stark, notwithstanding - looking ever so slightly enhanced) who is played to a sweet-T by Robert Downey Jr. There is no one i can imagine being in this role, so don't even try. Casting brilliance, even.

But Stark as an intentional mass murderer? This was a pretty hard aspect for me to swallow, especially when he'd acted nonchalantly after the fact, and even brazenly killed thereafters. The moment he walked out of the cave in his Mark-One suit, and fired into the terrorist occupied grounds, Tony killed without remorse. And when he flew into foreign grounds, this time in an upgraded Mark-3, and killed even more terrorists, no one held him accountable. Not even S.H.I.E.L.D. for sure, the character may be living out the fantasies of general populance, with regards to non-sanctioned action in lieu of geo-politics and red tape (i've certainly had my fair share of fantasy / imaginery justice met out to those i've felt deserved their fates) - perhaps the more level-hand would be well advised, IMHO ... altho one thing to note, no spilt blood was shown throughout the film, in my memory tho. wow.

SUPPORTING CAST

Jeff Bridges as "Obadiah Stane" was excellent and wrought with relish, whose life ended by the movie's end (Or did he?). Gwyneth Paltrow as "Pepper Potts" was pedestrian, and may have been replaced by anyone. Make no mistake, she was good in her role, and perhaps with someone else cuter in her position may make for a different vibe, but that role isn't as fleshed out as it could (which they nearly did, with a failed veer into Rom-Comdom) and may be in subsequent sequels (with the by-default possible/nearly romantic-interest mascarading as the anchor of Stark's heart) - pretty girl tho she may be (I have to say tho, her wardrobe was atrocious, no fault of her, I reckon) ... And frankly, I personally did not warm up to Terrence Howard's "Jim Rhodes". No commanding presence (of course he had to play second fiddle to Stark, granted) and saddled with a somewhat whimpy-dismeanour, the straight-man to Stark's nonsense - as evident by this numerous reactions to Tony, like whining over a bottle of wine on the jet-plane, the "military-exercise" press conference etc.

When he looked at the silver MARK-2 armor hung up in the workshop, after seeing Tony fly off in the MARK-3, and said (something to the effect of) "next time baby" (an obvious nod and prelude to WAR MACHINE), it was contrived and perhaps not as effective as when Jim Gordon said "I gotta get me one of those!" as Batman drove the Tumbler down the narrowed streets of Gotham ... but that's just me. Or perhaps that is or will be one of Rhodes character-arc? For when he ponies up to be a military-man with an-iron-suit and combat-mentality and training? Now, that'll be a scenario to look forward to, IMHO.

OFF THE WAGON

Much has been said about Tony Stark's alcoholism, especially soundbytes in media, in reference to authenticity of source material. Fair enough, because they are but soundbytes after all. From non-fans. Even if the foreshadowing of Tony, glass hand, as he rides the "Fun-Vee" may escape folks.

And if anyone wants to witness the hero's dismal fall into the abyss of destructive alcoholism, perhaps may be sated with the next installment? Permit me to speculate, for a "hero" has to discover his/her "heart" and ideology first (Part 1), followed by his/her fall from grace due to whatever factors, personal or external (Part 2) and of course ends with the inevitable redemption and rise to glory once again (Part 3). So enough with the alcoholism tagline already! ... Although that may fuel the actor to go further into his acting range (and would Downey ever get a nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Dramatic Role in a Feature Film?).

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

By the time the credits rolled, it felt too soon, as if you've had a taste of the appetizer but the main course denied you - fair enough, for this is, for all intents and purposes, an Origin Tale - which attempts to "educate" the masses, to ensure putting more "informed" butts in seats in the sequel subsequently. And I personally adore good appetizers, so this works enough for me, for now, to tempt and tease me for the future to come (and how delish the "promise" of it may be - peep bottom of post)

WHAT A GOOD MOVIE MAKETH

Although my personal gauge for a "good movie" is wide and has become very forgiving, points given to being "entertaining" rather than "technically proficient" (hang-ups from my "previous" dayjob, no doubt) - One of my main barometers these days, is if after viewing the film, I would still want to buy the DVD (for the making-offs etc). This movie does not feel like it for me, unfortunately (for the filmmakwers perhaps, but my wallet;s not complaining much LOL). Or perhaps tis my wallet doing the thinking instead? Or maybe I need to be brainwashed even more, by playing with the TOYS! LOL

SURPISE PROLOGUE END SEQUENCE YOU CAN NOT MISS

When Samuel L Jackson's "Nick Fury" appears in Stark's living room by credit's end, the wee bantering were but a faint memory (for me) except for the key phrase: "I want to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative" - man, i nearly wet me pants! (and I Meant it literally, because I was holding-it-in for dear life by the end of the film ... loadsa soda + freezing cinema = personal storm-in-a-tea cup) ... and that was a pretty sweet sendoff to the fans, if ever were the intention, IMHO. If this be a faint premise for an eventual Avengers Movie Collector's Box-Set a decade from now, maybe I would have to consider getting the DVD? HAH.

Go watch Iron Man, and then we'll geek out together :)

[First Reviewed on TOYSREVIL on April 30th 2008]

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