Iron Man

12 05 2008

(Beware, spoilers) Despite one or two credulity-straining moments, Iron Man may be best superhero film ever. It’s right up there with Spider-Man 2 and Batman Returns.

For a change, Robert Downy Jr makes the secret identity every bit as entertaining as the hero identity. Tony Stark has a distinct and engaging personality, which will be all the more crucial when we start getting crossover movies. If you haven’t heard, they are coming – after Thor and Captain America get introduced in their own films, they’ll be teamed up with Iron Man and who knows who else in The Avengers. Which could be a disaster, or it could be film’s biggest leap forward on the path to sophistication already blazed by certain superhero comics. I’m optimistic. More and more, the films are getting it right. You have to take the material seriously.

I know how that sounds. I’m embarrassed to even type “superhero.” But there is something deeper than Adam West at work. Read Douglas Wolk for what’s really behind the goofy names and spandex.

The superhero myth is tailor made for a Hollywood blockbuster, and mostly they go by the numbers. Act 1; the secret origin. Act 2: adjusting to the new powers and the first big bust. Act 3: the arch-nemesis puts the love interest in danger and showdown ensues. Iron Man follows the formula, but twists it just a bit. The whole film is really the origin of Iron Man- he becomes fully formed only with the last line of the movie. That last line is a triumph, fulfilling Tony Stark while surprising. Not to mention it segues beautifully into the inevitable but happily restrained Black Sabbath song, you know the one. A song that is alluded to throughout the score but never trotted out for campy effect. Thank Frith. 

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