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Why I Love Iron Man

June 27, 2008

Earlier this week I heard the beginning of Kerri Miller’s interview with Kenneth Turan, a film critic for the Los Angeles Times, on MPR’s Midmorning. Bemoaning the influx of cheesy, “frothy” movies released each summertime, Miller & Turan discussed the fact that so many summer movies are geared toward “13-year-old boys.” Miller expressed particular frustration with the prevalence of comic book movies, like Hellboy II and Iron Man. While I am sympathetic to Miller’s general concern over Hollywood’s lack of “originality,” I believe she grossly errs in writing off Iron Man based on its target audience and genre.

Not only is Iron Man an excellent comic book movie, it is an excellent movie. Period. And one worth seeing, no matter who you are and what your interests may be. I am not a teenage boy (obviously) and, unlike my husband, I did not grow up reading comic books, yet I loved this film. The characters are archetypes of classical conception, the comedy is fun and fresh, and the story is simultaneously fantastic and universal.

Now, perhaps I should qualify my super-glowing response by letting you in on the circumstances surrounding my viewing of Iron Man: It was the first movie I saw after the birth of our daughter; in fact, we saw it at the drive-in with our month-old daughter in tow, and she slept through the whole thing while I enjoyed a good beer! Drive-in movie, special date night, successfully getting out of the house with baby. I willingly admit these factors had a positive influence on my Iron Man experience. However, the film’s content stands up to critique, making it an excellent movie-going experience.

Here are a few reasons (in brief) I believe Iron Man is more universal than Miller & Turan give it credit:

  • Robert Downey Jr. was born to play the fast-living inventor Tony Stark. His comic timing is spot-on. Whether he’s flirting with his love-interest, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), talking to his mentor-turned-enemy, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), or giving instructions to his uniquely intelligent robots, his delivery keeps scenes lively and exciting.
  • Paltrow, Bridges, Terrence Howard (Col. James “Rhodey” Rhodes), and the robots (!) provide vibrant counterpoints to Downey’s performance, giving us characters as strong as Stark. This group of “A-list” actors inject believability and life into these supporting roles.
  • Director Jon Favreau treats this comic book tale as an honest story rather than as some cheeky vehicle for merely entertaining teenage boys. Iron Man is an earnest origin story and it’s intriguing storytelling touches on multiple universal themes (see next point).
  • Finally, the messages at the heart of Iron Man’s mythology (War is bad; Be careful of the double-standards you use to justify your behavior; Everyone, even superheroes, need help; The right thing isn’t always the easy thing… just to name a few) come through with spirit but without any awkward over-statement.

So sure, the soundtrack relies way too heavily on electric guitar riffs that echo Black Sabbath’s tribute to this comic book hero. Sure, the final action sequence feels a bit like a sequel to Tranformers. And sure, these flaws appeal directly to a targeted male teenage audience. But these artistic errors are completely overshadowed by the characters, the comedy, and the heart of this film. A good movie tells a good story, and Iron Man is too good to miss.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2008 10:20 am

    Great review, Dana! You’ve actually persuaded me to see this movie, even though I can’t stand much of the comic book movie scene. Together, you guys make for a real team, wowzers! Hope you’re doing well.

  2. Dana permalink*
    July 1, 2008 11:13 am

    Glad to hear I’ve persuaded you to see the movie, Ry! Can’t wait to hear what you think 🙂 And thanks for the props re: the blog. It’s been a real treat to work on it!!

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