Monday, May 12, 2008

Iron Man

Of late, there's a feeling that the superhero genre, particularly the first instalment that inevitably explores the origins of said superhero, has reached saturation. The elements of this instalment - an incident that leads to the superpowers, the superhero coming to terms with his newfound powers, the attempts to hide his superhero persona, etc. - are familiar and there are only so many ways these can be presented. But Iron Man proves that the genre still has some steam left in it. The film abides by all conventions of the genre but still manages to be a fresh, exciting addition to the ever-expanding roster of big-screen superheroes.

Unlike with Superman or Batman, I was not familiar with Iron Man before. In fact, the first I heard of this superhero was when I saw the previews for the film. So I did not know about the man(Tony Stark) inside the suit, his background as a weapons manufacturer, his stint as a prisoner in Afghanistan that led to him designing the first prototype for the Iron Man or the subsequent transformation to a full-blown superhero. This might have been the reason why I was engrossed in these portions but then again, I didn't know the origins of the Fantastic Four either and found the first film in that franchise to be a big bore. So its gotta be the small things that are unique to Iron Man. The fact that Stark was a bad guy before turning a new leaf allows his character to seem more human and the fact that Iron Man came about mainly because Stark wanted to escape makes his origin a little more believable.

Iron Man is not big on action and is the better for it. Director Jon Favreau, who also has a small role as Stark's assistant, manages to make the characters 3-dimensional. So we get to know them and like them and enjoy the interactions between them rather than simply wait for the next big action set-piece. Whether its the under-the-surface romantic tension between Stark and Pepper Potts(Gwyneth Paltrow) or the friendship between Stark and army man Terence Howard, the conversations are always smart and filled with subtle humor. And even though I was unfamiliar with SHIELD and the other Avengers, the running joke about the long-winded name of the organization was funny. And had a nice punchline (I missed Samuel L.Jackson's cameo though, since I read about it only after coming back from the movie. But caught up with it via some videos of the same on the web).

It goes without saying that the special effects are impressive but the good thing is that they don't overwhelm the proceedings. Iron Man's flights are as exhilarating for us as they probably were for him and things get blown up good too. But the big action set-piece, the climactic fight between Iron Man and Iron Monger is probably the least interesting segment of the movie. With the fight essentially being a clash between two computer generated metal creatures, the sequence looked like something out of Transformers, with only a fraction of the excitement .

Robert Downey Jr. is not the first actor I would think of when to play a superhero but he carries it off with aplomb and makes it all his own. Inspite of the whole change-of-heart scenario, Stark is someone who never seems to take things seriously and Downey is perfect for the role. He has some delicious lines and utters them with a distinctive style that is all his own. Paltrow is sweet and likeable without getting on our nerves while Terence Howard perfectly conveys the touch of humor when its needed. Usual good guy Jeff Bridges does a turn as villain but apart from his looks, which scream bad guy, he doesn't bring anything special to the role.


At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Samuel Jackson had a cameo?!! When did that happen?


At 9:06 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

after the end-credits, which is why I missed it. Jackson plays Nick Fury and visits Stark to invite him to join 'The Avengers' :)


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