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PCR #424 (Vol. 9, No. 19) This edition is for the week of May 5--11, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Iron Man"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 6 mins

It used to be that you could just throw anyone into a comic book film and hope for the best. Dolph Lungren. Thomas Jane (or Tom Jane, depending on the opening or closing credits). Shaquile O’Neal. Yes, even the Big Diesel has starred in a comic book film (“Steel”). Three guys not really praised for their acting talents. Not to take away from others. Christopher Reeve went to Julliard. And I think Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale are not only very talented actors, but good Bat-men (though how I would have loved to see Kurt Russell, circa late 1980s, take a shot under the cowl). But with “Iron Man,” the acting gauntlet has been thrown down. Talented? The four main players have seven Oscar nominations between them. As I often do before I review a highly anticipated comic book adaptation, let me state right now that I was not a big reader of, as my father called them, “funny books.” The occasional Batman and Superman issue not withstanding, my comic book tastes usually ran more towards Archie and the lifelong “who is hotter – -- -- Betty or Veronica” argument (FYI: Betty). So when I go into a film like “Iron Man,” I really don’t have any preconceived notions as to how faithful the film is to the characters or origin. That being said, let me say that “Iron Man” is one heck of a movie!

Multi-millionaire weapons maker Tony Stark (Downey) is in Afghanistan to demonstrate his latest creation to the United States Government. After the tests, his convoy is attacked and Stark is kidnapped. He is also injured in the attack, ironically by one of his own weapons. When he comes to he discovers that a high power magnet, attached to a car battery, has been surgically planted into his chest with the idea that it will pull small pieces of shrapnel still in his body away from his heart. Stark’s captors demand that he make them a weapon similar to the one he tested. After much “persuasion” he agrees, only to make a device that will not only allow him to escape but to make him consider his life and his legacy.

There is so much to praise in this film that it’s probably best that everyone involved take a bow, beginning with the cast. Downey, who went from teenage smart guy to embarrassed celebrity to critically acclaimed actor, is the perfect choice to play Tony Stark, a character very similar to the actor himself in that behind a very outgoing personality is a very troubled and subdued individual, one who must take his life one day at a time less the demons return. And it is those moments of indecision and reflection that Downey humanizes Stark and makes us emphasize with him. Is it fun to wear a suit of metal and fly around? Probably. But the suit is not created for fun, it’s created for redemption, which is what Stark realizes he must achieve. As Stark’s partner, Obadiah Stane, Jeff Bridges, who incidentally has four of the above mentioned Oscar nominations, adds another great character to his resume. His gentle voice helps hide the man inside, a man who wants what’s best for the stockholders in spite of Stark’s reservations. Is Stane a good guy? The fact that he has a bald head should help you figure that out. I wonder when it was decided that bald men make great villains. Lex Luthor…bald. The best known Bond villains…bald. Dr. Evil…well, you get the picture. Howard does well in a small role as Stark’s military liaison, Colonel Rhodes and Paltrow (a bonafide Oscar winner) reveals a bit of comic timing as Stark’s loyal assistant, Pepper Potts. The direction by Jon Favreau is tight and straightforward, wisely letting the film and the story unwind at a pace that lets the viewer go along for the ride without missing anything crucial. The special effects, as befits a Marvel Comics Movie, are top notch, as are a majority of the technical crew’s achievements. And I urge comic fans to stick around to the very end to see what the future holds.

An adventure that you’ll want to go on over and over, on a scale of zero to four stars I give “Iron Man”


This week's movie review of "Iron Man" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.