OK, let’s be honest, this is the single best comic-book movie created up to this point in time. There is no doubt about it. You cannot argue, you cannot deny it, it is, without a doubt, a fact. Let us break the movie down into what we learned about the power that comic book movies can have, in Hollywood.
Comic-book/superhero movies can have a great trailer, they can have great hype, but when it comes down to it, if the movie isn’t that great everybody feels let down. The reason that we all feel this way if the movie isn’t great is because, A) everybody has been talking about how great the movie will be B) the trailer looks great and, C) fans talk about the history of the characters, their richness, their history etc. this lends the ear added anticipation to what it is awaiting. However when the movie comes out, and it blows, we feel betrayed. It doesn’t help that, since a majority of the comic-genre films have not lived up to their expectations (i.e. The Hulk, Fantastic Four 1&2, X3…) the fan base grows hungrier and hungrier for a film that sates their appetite. I am proud to say, my satisfaction right now is comparable to the hour after thanksgiving dinner, I hold no qualms with the world. I am at peace.
Iron Man has taught us a few things. When making a comic book movie, or super hero, or whatever you want to call it, it might help to have this criteria met.
Hire a director who is also a fan. I’m going to go ahead and shoot Favreau some credit here, great job. Not only did you entertain me for two hours, I was impressed, intrigued, and in awe at some points with the decisions that you made. From start to finish, this movie flows, it has pace, it has character, and it does exactly what it is meant to do, which is, keep us entertained with the same amount of intensity that we had when we stumbled across the comic-book worlds in our youth. Getting a director who knows that feeling will help because A) he can tell if what he’s putting out there is shit and B) he can tell if what he is putting out the is gold. He knows, because the finished product will incite the same visceral response that the pages he was first in awe of did.
Get good actors. Not that there aren’t good actors in some of the other comic flicks, but you have to know when you’ve got a top dog for the comic world. Jack Nicholson embodied the Joker, Christian Bale as Batman, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine; they all have done their parts. There are many other fine actors who have played in the super hero part, that I feel they just can’t carry some of the qualities that a super hero embodies; the dichotomy of the hero and the alter-ego. Without the ability to properly portray this utmost important trait, the movie -and the character- is a dud. For the actor/actress to hit this note in perfect tune is the most important thing (aside from script and action). The duel personality of the comic book super hero is usually the most intriguing and drawing thing to certain characters, and the ability to portray this human element to a character is what makes the movie. Robert Downey Jr. knocks it out of the park. He plays the Tony Stark role perfectly. Bridges, Paltrow, and Howard all do an excellent job as well.
The dialogue in the movie is great. This is most likely not attributed to the script, but to the abilities of fine actors to tweak lines, and scenes, to make them feel more real. There is no awkwardness to the film; it all feels natural, unlike The Hulk or Spiderman. The movie is witty, intelligent, and economical. It does not drag out at any part, it does not delay, and it does not leave you waiting; it simply provides you with questions and then it answers them. As soon as you have asked a question of this movie, it will deliver you an answer twice as good as you could have imagined. “Oh, but what will the suit look like?” you ask yourself… “Oh that’s fucking sweet!” you instantly respond. The movie flows so easily within it’s dialogue that scenes where Downey Jr. is talking to a mechanical arm are more entertaining than any single word mentioned in The Hulk.
The action is great. When you want to see action, this movie provides it to you. But, unlike other comic-book movies, this film does not rely on it’s action, and it does not falter in it’s ability to deliver when the action comes.
You get enjoyment from nearly every aspect of this film. From the ability of the actors to portray their characters correctly, from the dialogue, from the action, and from the direction. It is a great product of skilled people.
So, the notes that Hollywood should take from this are, A) do not have directors such as Ang Lee direct comic-cook movies, sometimes certain instincts are not applicable B) get good actors C) make sure the movie does not rely on it’s action -or lack thereof- D) get a good script E) make the movie intelligent and insightful F) make it entertaining. If you do these things, you will have monstrous successes at the box office. In the comic-book genre of movies it is word of mouth that will carry you to the top of the box office, because the fans expectations are so high, and if you disappoint them, it will not bode well. This movie has the qualities that make you want to see it again right away, buy the movie on dvd, and tell your friends about it. Quite simply, Iron Man embodies what every comic book inspired film should be like; the kind of flick that you get excited about, and when you finally see it you are reminded of what captured your imagination in the first place about super hero’s.
Other things that Iron Man has taught us…
- Gwyneth Paltrow is still fine. That’s right, we may have forgotten, but she is.
- Supporting roles matter. Howard, Paltrow, and Bridges are great.
- Let’s not get campy with the movie or too intense about it. These movies are made to entertain, but their ability to do so is amplified when we are able to get lost in the story and characters, not lost in too much over-the-top drama or campy behavior.
- CGI is getting better and better.
- Downey Jr. is a testament to the fact that addiction is a battle that can be won. He’s always been a great actor, and he deserves credit for getting his shit together. Many can not do it.