Iron Man

I'm impressed with Iron Man. Not just because it was one of the more thoroughly enjoyable films I've seen, but because it lived up to the hype, maybe even exceeding it.It should go without saying at this point that Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic. What deserves to be mentioned is that this is a tight movie. At a point early in the first act, I realized something clever the filmmakers had done in their slow-reveal of a certain Marvel counterterrorism agency and I wanted to whisper it to my girl Danny sitting next to me. I wanted to wait for a lull in the action to note my findings -- and had to wait about an HOUR before there was anything resembling a lull. That's how entertaining the entire film is; if nothing else, it is one heck of an engaging experience.

Last night a friend asked me if he would like it, and I responded, "I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who wouldn't. Unless, of course, you really want to." Yes, according to Rotten Tomoatoes there are about 9% of reviews that weren't overwhelmingly positive, and one of those is from my old standby, Walter Chaw, who occasionally doesn't keep his eye on the ball because of his obsession with political allegory. His review is entertaining, but certainly not persuasive enough to suck the fun out of the film. It's too bad (and yet entertaining in itself) that he observes:
    Consider a scene where Iron Man rockets to the Middle East, saunters around to Led Zeppelin and AC-DC in an interesting/depressing update of the Wagner-scored helicopter attack from Apocalypse Now, and makes it back in time for a starlet elbow-rub covered by E! basic cable. If Batman Begins and Superman Returns capture how Americans think of themselves in their darkest, most introspective moments, Iron Man offers a glimpse into how Americans project themselves into the world as a giant, swinging, turgid dick. It's Dr. Strangelove but not as satire. Meanwhile, although Stark's alcoholism is downplayed, the casting of Downey Jr.--his personal backstory addiction-infected enough--lends the film a healthy degree of vital self-awareness: this Stark's drug of choice isn't firewater, it's leggy blondes and technophilia in the form of making things in racing red that blow up real good. (Note Stan Lee's requisite cameo as Hugh Hefner.) The real insight offered by Iron Man is that, as a culture, we're no less addicted to it. iPods and Bluetooth and Summer Blockbusters that cost more than it'll take to rebuild Myanmar after ten thousand of their people are swept out to sea: looks like a job for Iron Man.
Walter as usual is very insightful, witty, and in this case, ultimately self-defeating. Iron Man, Tony Stark, that is, IS a dick. He is not Batman, and sure as hell isn't Superman. Often the character makes a lot of questionable decisions, but ultimately he's doing what he thinks is right, his way. In other words, he is who he is, and the movie is what it is. And the only way you're going to dislike the film is if, like Walter, you work really hard to miss the point.

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