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"Iron Man"

Directed by Jon Favreau.
Written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.  Based on the Marvel comic.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  5/8/08


Robert Downey Jr. can really never be accused of "taking the big check", so when it was announced that he would be playing the title character of the new live action comic book "Iron Man", that was a pretty big deal.  (It came out later that he was a huge fan of the comic books back in the day.)  It is his presence that carries the first half of this new franchise, but even he can't save what eventually becomes, well, a big robot fight.

Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, arms dealer extraordinaire and owner of a vast, multibillion-dollar family fortune; his Stark Industries is the world's number-one producer of weapons both large and small.  When making a presentation to US government officials overseas for a new missile defense system, he is captured by rebels bent on capturing some of Stark's technology, so they capture him, put him to work on replicating the missile technology in a fucking cave in the middle of nowhere, and over the course of three months he develops not a lick of this missile business, but instead, a big iron suit that he can use to bust out of the joint.  He does so with aplomb, and back in the world, Stark has an epiphany--why continue to make weapons, when he can save the world by building a better version of that suit to be used to help those less fortunate.

Stark's second-in-command at Stark Industries, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), has other ideas, because he wants to keep building weapons and making money for the firm's stockholders.  As one can easily infer, these two will come to odds later, over robots, magically-powerfully heart units, women and, of course, world domination.  Or something.

"Iron Man" is a good ride for quite a while, very funny thanks to Downey's performance and the addition of a strong supporting cast, like Bridges (channeling some shade of his inner Dude), Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow.  The special effects are very good and the action--what little there is--works for a spell as we get to meet Stark and watch him work his wily magic with the ladies, the press, or whoever he's talking to at the time.  The pacing of the film is strong and the gadgets are cool; while never blow-out awesome, I thought that "Iron Man" was solid until the three-quarters mark, when things started to slide a little.

Some of that--only a bit, really--is that the film is a bit long and it has some of those great, predictable must-haves for films that dumb it down for the people.  We get a sequence where Paltrow's character, Pepper, must retrieve files from a computer in the Stark Industries' offices; blah.  We get a big robot fight to the death at the end...blah.  We get the requisite "Kryptonite" sequence late, when Stark loses the artificial nuclear reactor heart that is keeping him alive, because that's his only weakness...blah, and check.  You probably won't even believe that the film's main crop of bad guys for a while are Middle Easterners; in some ways, irrelevant, but at least you know that if you are of Middle Eastern descent, there will always be work for you in either major Hollywood action films or "24", whichever comes first.  (You will note that the lead bad guy besides Bridges in "Iron Man" stars not only in this film, but had a small bit part in "24.")

But, the big thing about the last half-hour of the film was that it was strangely underwhelming.  It felt vaguely like the bad finishes to both of the "Fantastic Four" movies; it needed to be bigger, or badder, or just better, but instead, it was just kind of a letdown.  Some of that was due to how much I loved the start of "Iron Man", even as I wondered how a person could power so many powerful tools, computers and equipment setups in a cave in the middle of fucking nowhere.  The reviews for "Iron Man" are largely positive, and I would agree that the flick is worth seeing.  And, don't forget to stick around for the end credits, because we get a little sneak peek at the sequel, which should be a little more interesting with the addition of everyone's favorite Mutha Fucka.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09