Favreau + Downey = Solid “Iron Man”

PG-13, 126 minutes, Paramount Pictures

Just when I thought we’d already been hit with an overload of summer Hollywood blockbusters in the last couple of years, welcome in 2008, a year that is promising an onslaught. The newest Marvel Comics adaptation, Iron Man is kicking off a season that will bring us more superhero/fantasy/big budgets film, etc, than any year yet. I can’t say that I am very excited about this overdose that we’re going to experience at the multiplex every week for the entire summer, but there are a lot of daring choice made in the creation process of Iron Man, most notably the fact that they have handed directing duties to Jon Favreau, and so I became interested in seeing this project. It makes complete sense at this point in his directing career to tackle a major responsibility like this one, but I still found it incredibly surprising that Paramount execs took a shot with him. What is arguably even more courageous than the hiring of Favreau is what I can only assume the filmmaker himself played a major part in proposing, and that is the lead casting of Mr. Robert Downey Jr. This is the type of actor that has managed to become familiar to all moviegoers throughout the last 20+ years, rifling through big and small films and roles, with the utmost energy. However, it has been the last few years in which Downey has excelled tremendously, in all facets of the profession. Still, he is not the conventional choice for Tony Stark/Iron Man, certainly not compared to the huge names Americans are used to seeing in roles like this, but there’s something about this guy – he’s one of only a few who I could see tackling any type of role in this business. Teamed together, Favreau and Downey have started the season off with a loud bang, resulting in one of the top films of its kind.

There is a healthy mixture of action, humor, excitement, and drama throughout the movie, and it all can be credited to the brilliant performance from Downey, who manages to enhance every line that comes from his mouth and stamp it with his own distinctive qualities. There is always obvious pressure put on a filmmaker in a film like this, and most of it coming from trying to please the comic buffs while also attempting to make an accessible piece of entertainment, and Favreau understands this well. There is a fine line between an effectively fast-paced film and an annoying one, with most of the films like this coming out on the latter end. Favreau keeps the energy constant but never creating irritation or chaos with it, so it is a rare effective energy, which can be credited to a bundle of people and things. The special effects, action sequences, and gadgetry are all fun to watch and flawlessly done, top-notch and never seem ridiculous or tacky. The cast backing up the uncanny Downey is one filled with interesting choices. Gwyneth Paltrow is very good (if limited) as Stark’s assistant, Pepper Potts, in her first time on screen in a while. Terrence Howard gets a moderate role as Roadie, Stark’s longtime friend who works for the military. In yet another great performance, Jeff Bridges is Obediah Stain, the second-in-command at Stark Enterprises who has some villainous plans to take over the reigns. Clark Gregg, producer Peter Billingsley, and even Favreau himself have tiny but memorable roles in an ensemble that really satisfied this audience member.

This was a film that I found easy to enjoy, but I think what caused me to love it was the feeling its setting evoked. I guess what I mean is that none of it seemed like it was existing in a far-off superhero world. There are no corny images of a city glowing with outrageous tones, no henchmen spouting off idiotic one-liners, no cartoonish things about Stark or his alter-ego. Favreau made the film in as real a way as you could make a superhero picture, the characters existing in the real world, which really elevates this film and should be considered to be mentioned in the same breath as Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, Batman Begins. I had this good feeling throughout Iron Man, one of those of appreciation for talents like Favreau and Downey finally getting a chance to break out on a big stage. These two are getting their due after a long and hard-treaded independent career, and good for them. What an unexpectedly great start to the summer season. It’s setting very high standards for the rest to follow.

10/10

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2 Responses to “Favreau + Downey = Solid “Iron Man””

  1. Robert Says:

    Great review, man! I really loved the film, save for Downey’s ridiculous facial hair!

    Have you heard Fleet Foxes? If not, you’re doomed…

  2. Ferguson Says:

    Thanks! Hahha yeah that was pretty finely architected facial hair. Sort of looked like the Minute Maid Park blueprints.

    Of course I’ve heard them, and I like.

    Speaking of one being doomed…have you heard Frightened Rabbit yet?

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