Friday, July 24, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Iron Man (2008)

This month's immersion into the Marvel world continues! Having watched CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), tonight I watched the first film in the series, IRON MAN (2008).

Robert Downey Jr. plays industrialist Tony Stark, son of Howard Stark from the film CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. (Gerard Sanders plays Howard in newsreel footage and stills seen in IRON MAN; Howard was played by Dominic Cooper in CAPTAIN AMERICA and the TV series AGENT CARTER. Apparently John Slattery of HOMEFRONT and MAD MEN will play Howard in some of the films.) Wealthy inventors Howard and Tony Stark both seem to have been influenced by Howard Hughes; Tony is incredibly brilliant, but also a womanizing, unserious egomaniac -- until fate intervenes.

Tony is nearly killed in the Middle East; this part was rather humorous for me, as the scenes were shot in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, California. I had a bit of hard time suspending disbelief due to my familiarity with the area, but it was also fun to see the location used in a newer movie.

Tony ends up held prisoner by terrorists, with another captured scientist implanting a weird device in the wounded Tony's chest to keep his heart going. The terrorists want Tony to build a weapons system, but instead he creates the first Iron Man, enabling him to blow the bad guys to smithereens and escape.

Tony's return home is greeted with joy by his loyal assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his close friend, Rhodey (Terrence Howard). After seeing his company's weapons misused in the Middle East, Tony wants out of the weapons manufacturing business, to the consternation of his partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).

Meanwhile Tony slowly creates a new, even more elaborate Iron Man in his Malibu basement...just in time to realize someone close to him wants to kill him.

I found the evolution of Tony Stark in the film, from privileged brat to serious man with a mission, to be very well handled and believable. The casting of Downey was interesting for multiple reasons; Downey, like Stark, overcame his past and turned his life around, and it was also refreshing to have someone in his 40s cast as a superhero, with an age-appropriate leading lady.

The film's biggest flaw was that it was too long at 126 minutes; some of the sequences, such as Tony's time in a Middle Eastern cave or being tormented by his nemisis late in the film, go on and on and on. I think the film could have been trimmed down by a few minutes for a brisker pace.

I did like the prolonged development sequences where Tony interacts with his robot Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany); I suspect one of the reasons the development sequences were lengthy was to better ground the film in a sense of reality, and from that standpoint they work.

My other main criticism was I felt a lack of chemistry between Tony and Rhodey; the scene where Rhodey is in a situation room following Iron Man's flight and talking to him on his cell phone could have had much more humor and drama. It should have been an exciting high point as Rhodey realizes where his friend is and deals with it; instead it was just kind of flat. That was partly a fault of how the scene was written, but I also didn't feel the characters (or actors) clicked. I was thus quite interested to learn that Rhodey was recast in subsequent films with Don Cheadle (OCEAN'S 11).

On the other hand, I loved the relationship of Tony and Pepper and really enjoyed their banter and unspoken attraction. Good stuff, and I look forward to seeing what might develop there in future films.

I understand I'll also be meeting Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) of SHIELD in future films. As I mentioned in my review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, I do enjoy the "soap opera"/movie series aspects of these films, with long-running characters in interconnected stories.

The three Marvel movies seen to date have a nice old-fashioned sensibility, with heroes maturing and ultimately becoming selfless as they take on unexpected responsibilities for the good of the world. There are also strong roles for women and, for the most part, a lack of disturbing violence. And there was even an appearance by Lone Pine, seen in so many favorite Westerns and other classic films! I'll be back for more.

IRON MAN was directed by Jon Favreau, who also appears onscreen in the series as Hogan. It was filmed by Matthew Libatique.

As was the case with the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies, the music is sadly forgettable.

Parental Advisory: IRON MAN is rated PG-13 for intense action sequences and one very brief suggestive scene. There are a lot of explosions but no graphic violence.

IRON MAN is available on DVD and Blu-ray.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura

Forgive me for hi-jacking your fine piece on "Iron Man" to talk books briefly.

Sometime late 2014 you made note for your readers of the publication of Linda Alexander's new biography of "ALLAN 'ROCKY' LANE: VOICE OF MR.ED". I made sure I received a copy from my family last Christmas and have just finally got around to reading it. Thought it a very interesting and well-written account of this rather mysterious figure. It certainly dispelled a few long-held myths and I recommend it to anyone who has not so far tried it.

The other book I received last Christmas was another biography published at the same time "JOCK MAHONEY: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF THE HOLLYWOOD STUNTMAN" by Gene Freese for McFarland Press. I am currently now reading it and again would highly recommend this very well-written and informative book. It would have appeal to many of your readers as it is an in-depth account of the times, of film-making in the post-WW2 era and the 50s, of the world of the Hollywood stuntman, and of course a concentration on westerns and Jock Mahoney's prominent role in them.
It sure helps if, like me, you are a big fan of Jock Mahoney to start with! LOL

Best wishes,

1:26 AM  
Blogger James Corry said...

As with the music to ALL films today, it's sadly forgettable.

Sorry, my prejudices are showing through!


7:53 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

I agree with you about the music to these being mostly forgettable. I'm going to sound like a broken record here but X-Men movies have consistently nice scores with the worst one having the most gorgeous music. Back to Iron Man... it was overlong I found, but love the humour Downey brings to it.

8:58 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

The only Marvel movie to date that I listen to fairly regularly is Iron Man 2 by John Debney. That is also my favorite of the three Iron Man movies, but I am in the extreme minority on that. Apparently NO ONE likes that movie but me. LOL! Sure I have a few issues with it, but overall, it hits things that I'm a complete sucker for, so I love it.

I love Don Cheadle as Rhodey! I think he fits the role much better, and he is much more humorous.

And anytime the Alabama Hills pop up in a movie is a good day! Makes me grin to see them.

I'm quite enjoying reading your reviews as you work through this movies.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Sorry to go on another tangent here but after that comment I was trying to remember any of the Avengers or other Marvel music and couldn't. I feel like lately scores in general are underwhelming and less expressive, rarely any orchestral beauty or something that sticks with you. Action & horror use a lot of contemporary hip hop/metal/rock that will sound dated in the future.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wow, thanks so much to all of you for leaving comments! Love how many of you have watched these movies also. :)

Jerry, very glad you left your thoughts on those two books! Very timely as I have a Jock Mahoney Western in my player right now (SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE). I need to see more of his films!

Brad, Deb and Kristina, interesting we all find the lack of good music disappointing. They could have done so much with a SUPERMAN-like theme to add some excitement! Interesting comments on the action/horror music, Kristina.

Deb, glad to hear Cheadle is good as Rhodey. I can envision him having a more lighthearted give and take with Downey. It's funny, one of my daughters just texted me "Don't expect much from IRON MAN 2." LOL. Glad it has a fan! I might watch THOR first, we'll see.

Definitely so nice to see the Alabama Hills pop up! It's almost like they "belong" in an "old" movie, it never takes me out of the story to see them in a Western or film noir but seeing them in a brand-new movie was a little startling!

Best wishes,

2:18 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I love "SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE", Laura. That fabulous leap he does from the veranda is a typical Jocko stunt. Wonderful to watch a true craftsman at work. Love to hear your take on the film.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I thought SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE was terrific and really took note of the leaps -- great stuff. Just posted a review tonight.

Best wishes,

9:17 PM  
Blogger GunsDonovan said...

AS Laura's companion through the Marvel movie universe, I need to expand on the theme that developed in the responses in her postings. The music for these films will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in film history. None of it is thematic in nature and will not be programed at any pops concerts anytime soon. With Marvel’s resources they could easily make these soundtracks much better.

On a personal note, I have friends who are Hollywood studio musicians. They are upset because they are recording these soundtracks overseas. I have told them, you are missing the money, but not a musical experience. I kid them that we should start a Kickstarter to collect a million dollars which will be paid to John Williams to write a symphonic suite much like “The Planets” except is would be for “The Avengers”.

12:44 PM  

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