Thursday, May 1, 2008
Overpriced Popcorn: Iron Man
Overpriced is right - $5.45 for a medium that would be a small at any other theater. But that's OK. Last night, I'm at the world-famous Ziegfield Theater in New York City. For as long as I can remember - literally, since I was like 2 years old - I've wanted to see a movie in this theater, because for my whole life, seeing TV stories on the rampant success of the original Star Wars Trilogy, the Ziegfeld was always shown as the theater to premiere these great fan-friendly summer blockbusters, like NYC's less pretentious answer to Mann's Chinese Theater in LA. And now I'm here, with the ornate lights on the walls and velvet and leather everywhere. It looks like the Playboy Mansion. The reason I am here is because my oldest friend Chris recently completed an internship at Marvel Comics, and before he left, they put him on the list +1 for the company's Iron Man screening. What, I said? I get to see Iron Man with the Marvel offices, complete with rah-rah speech by former comic-art-genius and present Marvel head Joe Quesada?? Count me the fuck in, for realz son! But let me get to the point - is the movie any good?
Yes. A hundred times yes. Taken with the grain of salt that comes with the genre of comic book films, this is nearly as much of a success as Batman Begins was three years ago. Director Jon Favreau (Zathura, Elf) has put together a flashy action film that is stuffed to the seams with emotion, fun and A-list acting. Robert Downey Jr. carries this film on his (come)back the whole way, with at least as much coolness as he had in the masterful (and sorely overlooked) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - CSR's top film of 2005; he exudes so much charm and honed personality as the billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark that you have to know something special is going on here. It is. Having realized the folly of hiring two first-time writers to draft the screenplay, Favreau and Marvel Studios (this is the comic powerhouse's first experiment in developing a film on its own; Hulk reboot to follow in June) went out and got the writing duo who worked magic with Children Of Men - CSR's top film of 2006 - to add some weight to the high-speed smashings and bashings. It definitely worked, but also of note is that they weren't done writing when the film started shooting last year. Downey joked on David Letterman's show last night about throwing out the script every morning, and it turns out he wasn't entirely joking; Downey's ability to improvise flawlessly within the tone of the scene coupled with Favreau's feel for the whole piece apparently need to get a hell of a lot of credit for the success of this film.
As a blockbuster chosen to open the summer, Iron Man is perfect. Audiences will have so much fun with this movie even if they have no idea about the comic book background like they did with the big four - Spidey, Supes, Bats, & the Mutants. In the scheme of superheroes on the big screen, only the aforementioned Begins and Spider-Man 2 are better. Downey inhabits the role of the self-centered, alcoholic womanizer with flair, and his efforts are followed by an equally kind & sexy performance by Gwyneth Paltrow and a correctly-measured over-the-top villain turn by Jeff "The Dude" Bridges. Even further, the combinations of physical effects (robot suits by action movie GIANT Stan Winston) and brilliant visual effects by - duh - ILM are almost as good as Downey. The Iron Man suit is every bit as good as the Transformers were bad, and the aerial sequences and climactic battle are wonderfully orchestrated, divebombing kamikaze popcorn spectacle. No matter how much the popcorn costs, the price of admission is cheap for the rollercoaster thrills you'll get at Iron Man.
Special superhero film rating: