Tuesday, May 06, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: Iron Man

Nope, no way, I didn't see this coming. I'll even make the girly-man confession that if Sweetie preferred we catch Baby Mama or Forgetting Sarah Marshall rather than an action flick this weekend, I'd have been happy to wait until the second or third week of release to catch Iron Man. This is not like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which has me counting down the days until May 22. 'Nuff said.

Iron Man aka Tony Stark has always been a second-tier Marvel hero. OK, he was in the first wave back in the 1960s, starting with Tales of Suspense #39 with that goofy gray suit that quickly got painted gold and then converted to the funkier red-and-gold suit in #48. But he didn't even get a whole book to himself until 1968, sharing Suspense with filler stories and then (starting at #59) with Captain America all the way up to issue #99.

So sure, he's an integral part of the Marvel Universe, but Iron Man never stepped to the front of the line. Not until now.

About 15-20 minutes into the film, Sweetie leaned over and said, "Isn't this a superhero movie?" We'd met Stark, the gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker, and watched him do his gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker stuff while flashing back from an opening scene where he is captured by insurgents while doing his gazillionaire playboy genius weapons maker stuff in Afghanistan, and they keep him in a cave and order him to make them some of his genius weapons. But to her eyes, there wasn't any sign of a superhero story of the Superman or Spider-Man variety. Of course, she asked a couple of minutes before it became clear that instead of building genius weapons for the bad guys, Stark was assembling a makeshift suit of armor packed with miniaturized genius weapons (see "goofy gray suit" above) with which he would bust out of that cave and start making history.

A compelling story, some surprisingly hilarious bits and, OK, a fairly gratuitous rock 'em, sock 'em comic-book-style fight finale later, and I was saying to Sweetie that I was shocked to find myself comparing Iron Man favorably to the best superhero movies ever made, and the superhero movie genre has really come alive here in the early 21st century. The greater shock is that Sweetie, who is of the see-it-once breed of movie goer, said this is one flick she wouldn't mind seeing again.

It doesn't hurt to have a career-reviving performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Stark, or the lovely Gwyneth Paltrow making perky Pepper Potts cooler than she ever was in the comics. This is simply a boffo movie.

And what a pile of bones tossed to us aging '60s comic book geeks, starting with the goofy gray suit. My favorites are the "Secure Homeland whatever" agency with the ridiculous name that is run past us too fast to figure out exactly what it is if you're not paying attention (and I wasn't) and the scene at the end of the credits — you did stay until the end of the credits, didn't you?

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Blogger Wally Conger said...

Your review and mine are remarkably similar, bro. Like minds think, uh, alike! I agree with you entirely that this movie shoots ol' Shellhead to the top-tier of Marvel heroes, something no writer-artist team has been able to do with the comic books for 45 years.

5:05 PM  

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