Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The Marvel comic book universe is quite large, full of characters having varying degrees of recognition among the general public. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is a bit of a B-lister while being a very important character to the universe he occupies, particularly in the last couple of years worth of stories.
Some might claim his increased presence and prominence was all in anticipation of the just released movie, but I seriously doubt it. Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Stark more resembles the alternate universe version of Iron Man from the Ultimates line.
â€œHuh?â€ you ask. I don't blame you non-comics folks for being confused, so let me explain.
A number of years ago, Marvel decided to try a grand experiment and reboot their core characters in a modern setting. All the old continuity would be thrown right out the window and everything started from scratch. It wasn't the first time comics had had a giant reset button pushed, but it was unique in that it was to run parallel yet independent of the main line. Many thought it was just a silly gimmick and doomed to failure. Instead, the company let supremely talented writers and artists handle the books and some truly great stories followed. Not the least of these was the Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch re-working of The Avengers, now renamed The Ultimates. It was a perfect storm of pop-culture goodness all the way down to having a major character, Nick Fury, being modeled after Sam "The Man" Jackson. Here the character of Iron Man/Tony Stark is basically Dean Kamen meets Johnny Depp. Someone blessed with not only brains and money, but who is also comfortably famous and cool.
Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely perfect in this role. It's like Robert Shaw in Jaws, or Carey Grant in North By Northwest, or Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life. Imagine anyone else in those roles... I dare you. Everyone else is good too, Terrence Howard, Gwenneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges all have enough chemistry with Downey to make audiences believe in the long-term relationships we're told the characters have.
Sure, director John Favreau was an actor in Daredevil, one of the worst Marvel movies ever, but he's more than made up for it here. Yes, there are moments that stretch credulity, but so much is just plain fun that one would have to actually want to hate the movie to let those things get in the way. There are times that the digital effects work is a little obvious, but what's being shown is just so damn cool that I can't pick that nit with much gusto.
Is it high art? No, of course not. Is it a great kick off to what looks like a great summer movie season? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. 88/100
(Oh, and stay through ALL the credits for a geekgasm teaser that rates 100/100)