On the Big Board
||RDJ is perfectly cast for this role and Paltrow is at her best in years. I think I'd rate this equal to or higher than Batman Begins.
||This is a masterpiece of popcorn cinema. Favreau delivers a focused story and Downey Jr.'s performance is a revelation, while Paltrow is every bit as good in her supporting role.
||It's not just a great superhero movie. It's an amazing movie in its own right and nearly perfect to boot.
||Everything you could ask for in a superhero movie. Robert Downey Jr. is perfect.
||Stellar comic-book adaptation with a fantastic turn by Downey.
||Maybe the most fun I've had in the cinema all year.
||Nasty blend of American political mythologies
Comic book superhero ideas are notoriously derivative. Perhaps no idea demonstrates this more effectively than Iron Man. After hearing decades of quotes about the “Man of Steel”, DC’s Superman, Marvel decided to rip off…err, borrow the premise for their own icon. In this case, comic legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby chose to go a different way with the man comprised of metal theme. Rather than making it metaphorical, they implemented a character whose entire body was covered by an exoskeleton of indomitable ferrous. Their creative novelty was that the man himself would be not Kryptonian but instead all too human…a flawed but exciting man of means whose armor was a physical representation of the strength of his will. In 1963, Tony Stark was born on the pages of Marvel and 45 years later, he is making the move to the big screen as the character becomes the latest comic book adaptation to receive theatrical adaptation.
The why of an Iron Man movie is straightforward. Here is a current list of comic book adaptations that have opened to box office of $40 million or more: 300, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Begins, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Hulk, Men in Black, Men in Black II, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Superman Returns, X-Men, X2: X-Men United, and X-Men: The Last Stand. That’s 19 such performances with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer poised to become the 20th in another few weeks. And I haven’t even included other media properties that have developed into comic books over time such as Tomb Raider, Star Wars, The Matrix, and The Transformers. Clearly, there is big money in the opening weekend performances of comic book adaptations, and Paramount Pictures wants to be the next ticket to ride on this money train.
The decision as to why Iron Man in particular would be the next superhero icon to make the leap to the big screen is more interesting. Tom Cruise had been rumored to play the part of Tony Stark for roughly ten years. For whatever reason, he never could fully commit to such an endeavor. Then, when the project finally had a worthy script and the financing nearly lined up to begin pre-production, Cruise made a poor decision to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. One couch-jump later, he had gone from being the most reliable box office draw in the world to the man whose presence prevented a genuinely great movie in Mission: Impossible III from even matching its budget of $150 million in terms of domestic gross. If Cruise could not get more than $133.4 million worth of fans to attend a quality entry in an established franchise, how could he sell the fledgling Iron Man brand? So, Cruise was out.
Even stranger is the casting choice to replace him. A man who makes constant visits to the Lunatic Fringe, Robert Downey Jr., has been tapped to play the role of Iron Man. The former Ally McBeal scene stealer’s last starring role was in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a highly recommended movie that earned only $4.2 million against a budget of $15 million. Stating the obvious, the Academy Award-nominated actor is not a box office draw. He is, however, a phenomenal character actor.
Given the recent success of the story driven but starless 300, Paramount Pictures felt comfortable that special effects and a ubiquitous character would be enough to lure the average movie-goer into theaters on opening weekends. Sending such customers home with a smile on their faces, however, would require a sublime acting talent who could find the soul of a damaged character and make him worthy of rooting for despite all of the personal demons. This makes Downey Jr. a fascinating casting choice since he can tap into his own troubled history in order to exemplify the paradoxical behavior of the man behind the iron mask, Tony Stark. In order to protect their interests a bit, the studio secured proven director Jon Favreau (Elf) to take control of the project.
In case you are unfamiliar with Iron Man/Tony Stark as a comic book character, here is a brief description from BOP’s Walid Habboub: “Take Bill Gates, double his fortune and double his smarts and you have Tony Stark, the richest man in the Marvel Universe and the man in the Iron Man suit. Other than his love for adventure and need to invent new technology, Stark develops the Iron Man suit as a way to maintain his bad heart. The saga of Iron Man in the Marvel universe runs the gamut from being part of a United Nations-esque group of super-heroes called The Avengers to interstellar warfare to his financing espionage, all while including a good dosage of alcoholism. All in all, it’s a recipe for what could very well be a huge blockbuster.” With regards to his powers, well, he has a cool suit that does stuff. Some of these aren't rocket science, folks.
The Iron Man character recently had his profile heightened even further in the comic book world when he became the focus of the Civil War event of 2006. Tony Stark came out in favor of the Super-human Registration Act and proceeded to find himself ideologically opposed to those superheroes who refused to do so. That group was led by Stark’s close friend and Avengers teammate, Captain America, forcing the former allies to wage war against one another. Stark’s group eventually won out, and the multi-billionaire found himself promoted to new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., making him the most powerful law enforcement official in the world.
With an eye toward an eventual movie based on the character, Marvel wanted to ensure that Iron Man’s name was on the lips of every passionate comic book fan in the world. Whether this clever bit of marketing saturation pays off remains to be seen, but you have to hand it to them for the forward thinking. Iron Man is probably not going to be a Spider-Man type of performer out of the gate, but as the list above showed, it is almost certain to earn somewhere north of $40 million on opening weekend. The only question is how high it goes, and 300 territory is a strong possibility. That current slot in the first weekend of May (aka Spider-Man territory) is also quite nice. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Comparison films for Iron Man
|X2: X-Men United
|Batman and Robin