Seen at the AMC Empire 25, Auditorium #6, Sunday morning/afternoon May 4, 2008. 2.5 Slithy Toads
It needs to be said right at the outset that I do not think there will ever be a superhero movie as good as Superman: The Movie. Most fall far short of that, or of any other decent standard. Fantastic Four 2, Daredevil. The Spiderman movies have come closest to it, in my eyes. It doesn't hurt that there's nothing better than a comparison viewing of the first Spiderman and of Superman: The Movie to suggest what template was being used in the creation of Spiderman. There has yet to be a decent Batman movie. Superman Returns was painful to watch.
So from this vantage point, Iron Man falls somewhat short of Superman or Spiderman, but it's certainly a heckuva lot better than most of its competitors. If I had grown up reading Marvel instead of DC, maybe I'd feel differently about all of this, but I didn't, and I don't.
Anyone reading my blog has probably read 28 other reviews of the movie, but just in case... Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a weapons merchant and genius who constructs an Iron Man suit to escape from captivity in Afghanistan. He returns home a new man, but while he tries to change his company's business model and refine his suit, his captors go digging for the one he used to escape and we find out that there are more layers to his captivity than we had imagined. No surprise that this will build to a battle of Iron Men. Gwyneth Paltrow plays his assistant Pepper Pots, Jeff Bridges is Obadiah, who was Stark's Regent when he was too young to run the family business and still plays an important role. Terrence Howard is an Air Force General who has a good relationship with Stark.
It's trying, first of all. A lot of these movies don't even do that. It's well cast (& a quick shout out to Randi Hiller, who also cast Never Back Down and is the niece of someone in my synagogue) within the budget limitations. Superman was intended to have star power from the top of the cast to the very bottom, and where it ventured into the unknown it did pretty well by Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Jeff East and Marc McClure. Iron Man would have been better if they could have been doing casting excellence down to the level of the government agent. When Terrence Howard is showing off stuff to the air force pilots in one scene, part of me admired the diverse array of heights and builds and ethnicities, but part of me wondered if it was more realistic that way or instead diversity at the expense of diversity.
The script tries, but at times a little too hard. I thought the movie got SuperSluggish when Iron Man had to detour to Afghanistan to save some little kid. I guess he had to go back to Afghanistan because -- well, because they had put him there in the first place, but the movie would have worked fine structured ten other ways, most of which wouldn't have had the advantage of being Relevant, but may have been more involving.
It's trying, but too often I found myself giving the movie points for trying and admiring and respecting it for its efforts without warming at any level to the characters. As an example, I can admire Tony Stark for Seeing the Light blah blah blah, but he's supposed to be a genius and yet bulls ahead with his big plans for Stark Industries without giving a moment of realistic thought to what he's doing or how he's doing it. That's comic book in the bad way.
This gave me plenty of time to think on other things. Primary among them: A Long Time Ago (28 years) in a Galaxy Far Far Away (for me, the huge main screen at the RKO Stanley Warner Rt. 4 Paramas Quad in NJ), Luke Skywalker got a new hand at the end of the Empire Strikes Back. What if Tony Stark were there to have really really upgraded Luke? What if Luke had gotten some kind of fancy Iron Man suit to go along with the Darth Vader outfit? What a great movie Episode 6 could have been, if Luke and Darth had gone mano a mano in their respective Stark Industries specials? I wanted to see that movie more than the one I was watching. The Samuel L. Jackson came appearance at the end -- I thought they were going in a totally different direction with that.
I ended up seeing a flurry of movies on Sunday. I hadn't seen one in a while because I was busy busy busy, and I decided to try and cram as many into a single day as I could. After Iron Man, I did Street Kings, and this was probably the most thoroughly enjoyable movie I saw. I missed the first few minutes, nonetheless found myself totally engrossed, it has Chris Evans from the Fantastic Four movies! Nothing new in it, and Hugh Laurie's internal affairs officer was an odd bird, and I had things figured out well ahead of the Keanu Reeves character, but I enjoyed myself. 3 Slithy Toads. Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay was next, and disappointing. I loved the movie poster, and the fact that they shied away from that marketing campaign to silly newspaper adds of Doogie Howser and a unicorn had me peeved. The relationship between the kids in Superbad was more heartwarming than Harold & Kumar's, and it needed more jokes. 1.5 Slithy Toads. I capped the day off with Prom Night. Fortysomething me doesn't usually do the teen slasher thing, but this one had Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights, and it looked to be a little better than the run of the mill, and I'd say that it was. Does have a good cast. Does handle the mechanics of having people go off on their own to their death very thoughtfully. Does have some nice long scenes with a little actual suspense instead of just a stream of lambs to the slaughter. It defines the 2 Slithy Toads rating. No one needs to see this, but if you go at it with the right motive you'll amost certainly feel satisfied.
This still leaves Smart People as a movie I should maybe try and see, and David Mamet's Redbelt,
- The Brillig Blogger
- A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.