The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Dark Knight, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Summer time.
And with summer time will come the return of the wardrobe summer movie reviews! So, without further ado, let's take a look at the film that has kicked off the summer: Iron Man.
Iron Man, being the first film on the character, is, like all of its predecessors, an origin story. As you can tell already from the commercials, we find the brilliant weapons developer Tony Stark(Robert Downey Jr.) kidnapped by terrorists and coerced into building a weapons system for them... only what he builds is not quite what they expect. Armored technological carnage follows throughout the movie. There are also lots of fine cars and beautiful women. Make no mistake: Iron Man is a superhero movie on steroids.
Does that mean that there's nothing behind the shallow facade of gold-titanium alloy and hotrod red paint? That's hard to say.
There is certainly a lot going on in Tony Stark's character. He begins the film as an incredibly vain, carefree Casanova; he ends a vain Casanova (?) with a "heart". After seeing what use the weapons that his company manufactures have been put to, Stark's conscience--and his familiar suit--appears for the first time. There's all sorts of talk at this point about Tony's heart, Tony's purpose, his mission. He's accused by one man, a family man, of 'having everything but having nothing.'
Now, with the first Spider-Man film, as fun and action-packed as it is, we are left with the impression that the tale is ultimately one of responsibility; "with great power comes great responsibility" is Spidey's mantra. When the credits rolled on Iron Man, however, I was left feeling that the story of Tony Stark finding himself, while certainly there and intentionally, was there out of convenience and propriety. It is, I think, ultimately not what the movie is about. The movie is about weapons manufacturing, explosions, and speed. The real story was there, but in the end I don't think it formed the heart of the movie that the film-makers perhaps hoped for it to.
As far as the movie as a production goes, it's really well done. The score by Hans Zimmer was surprisingly weak until the film's credits. Other than that, the movie has plenty of room to shine. The effects are handled by ILM, which means they're top-notch. The Iron Man armor itself, such a critical aspect of the film, was designed by Stan Winston Studios (Predator, Terminator, etc.), so rest easy there.
Last and most impressive to me was actually the performances. Not all of them are phenomenal: Gwyneth Paltrow has done better work and I'm certain that Terrance Howard has as well. Still, Jeff Bridges offered a very solid performance and Downey Jr. simply stole the show. I couldn't help comparing the drawn-out origins beginning of the movie to those in Spider-Man or Hulk, but Spider-Man and Hulk didn't have Robert Downey Jr. I've never been terribly impressed by him before, but the man made every scene in Iron Man enjoyable and really alleviated the humdrum of an origin story.
So, on the whole, Iron Man was just a lot of fun. We shouldn't expect much more from these movies anyways (I made that mistake with Spider-Man 3...). If you need a few hours off--especially you college students going into finals--go check it out. This is no Oscar winner (except perhaps for effects), but it'll be a good time.
And remember, true believers, this is a Marvel comic movie... so make sure you sit tight until after the credits.