I must preface this review with a story which has very little to do with the review itself. Iron Man, for some time, has been on my summer to do list hovering around the second tier; something that I would like to get around to, but wasn't terribly pressing. Friday rolls around, and as I peruse cnn.com (I check this website more than I think, I suppose), I stumble over two overwhelmingly positive reviews of Iron Man, one from CNN itself, and one from Time. I'm intrigued. I don't subjugate myself to reviews, but not having the unlimited budget of a Roger Ebert to see any and every movie that comes down the pipe, I have to research a bit. I hop over to rottentomatoes.com to find out that their sampling of reviews are 92% positive. This is where it hits me.
The blockbuster season is upon us. I must see Iron Man.
Without having made plans the chances are dim. Enter fate. My mom calls, and asks if we'd like her to watch the kids so we can go see Iron Man. Hmmmmmm. I think about it for .034 of a second. I say yes, and by a serendipitous turn of fate, the wife and I are off on an adventure to see the summer's first blockbuster on opening weekend.
We are living in the golden age of comic book movies. I loves me a good comic book movie, and I loves me a good blockbuster. I love the dramatic, the different, the occasional art house flick, but when all is said and done my friends, nothing trumps the summer blockbuster, but above all, the well done summer blockbuster. The well done summer blockbuster doesn't sacrifice story for sizzle. Its over the top effects complement rather than crush the narrative. Iron Man scores points for doing neither.
While I wish I could be chic and be the dissenting voice I am happy to report that I cannot. Iron Man is another in a line of supremely crafted super hero pictures which puts the character front and center, rather than as an afterthought. Spider-Man 2 explored the human toll such great responsibility can wreak upon someone endowed with such great gifts. Batman Begins chronicled Bruce Wayne's tranformation into the Dark Knight in poignant detail, making his alter ego a conflicted and imperfect hero. The bonds that he forges with Alfred and Lucius Fox as his partners in the fight to take back Gotham strike the perfect tone. Tony Stark, then man behind the iron mask, takes a cue from Bruce Wayne, but runs with it. What makes Robert Downey Jr.'s performance spot on is that, unlike Wayne's attempts to feign being the billionaire playboy, Tony Stark is that billionaire playboy. This movie makes being a super hero fun again. He is flippant and fast fast with the quips. Downey was born for this role. This movie fails with anyone else in this role.
In the first 5 minutes of the movie, Stark is brought to the grim realization that there is heavy price for dealing in arms, and the rest of the movie takes on a bit of gravity with that realization. Somehow, Iron Man stays light on it's feet while dealing with this issue. These undercurrents don't stop the transformation from arms dealer to super powered war machine any less fun. We've gotten so serious with our super heroes, we've almost forgotten how cool it would be to blow up a tank and save a village of refugees. Iron Man strikes the perfect balance, and any comic book fan would be well served by the year's first great box office smash.