Monday, May 05, 2008

Finally, the word on "Iron Man," and revving up for "Speed Racer"

My apologies for not getting to this before Jon Favreau's movie managed to take in $201 million worldwide, for the the 10th-best opening of all time, but as a volunteer for Barack Obama (something that as a newspaper employee I should probably just keep to myself, and mostly do) it was obviously a crucial and very busy weekend.

And, before I get into it, a brief bit of news about "Heroes" (remember shat show?) It is indeed, of course, coming back to NBC sometime this fall for a third volume, and Michael Ausiello of TV Guide reports that Brea Grant - who played Landry's rebound girl on "Friday Night Lights" - will be joining the cast as a speedster named Joy. I'm surely much too old to call a woman of her age "adorable," but Ms. Grant certainly is, and she should make a fun addition to "Heroes."

But back to "Iron Man," and finally for the record, like most of the world I mostly loved what Jon Favreau did with entrepreneur/genius-turned-reluctant-superhero Tony Stark. If there's one overall reason, I'd use a word no one really ever should in decent conversation - vibe. The whole thing, even at its most intense, feels like it's approaching the superhero genre with a big - although never condescending - wink.

At the outset, and perhaps with Jon Favreau's name on this it's too facile an analogy, it has a real "Swingers" feel about it as we're introduced to billionaire playboy Tony Stark, played of course by Robert Downey Jr. Being a far-too-white fan of the Wu Tang Clan, my favorite moment in this rather breezy intro was easily the Ghostface Killah track that's playing as Stark, James Rhodes (Terrence Howard) and the stewardesses/go-go dancers drink champagne on his plane. It would have been nice to see the "Iron Man"-obsessed rapper actually get a part in the movie (he apparently did, but it's on the cutting room floor), but a nice touch all the same.

And forgive me if this review is a bit episodic, but I'm just gonna assume just about anyone who bothers to read this has seen the movie by now (but not offer any major spoilers either just in case.) The flick stays on sure footing as we see Stark taken captive in Afghanistan with Yin Sen. The Afghani warlord and his soldiers are clearly evil, but never the kind of cartoony evil you might be fearing, just really bad dudes (and besides, never having been to Afghanistan, it is my understanding that there are indeed roving bands of armed dudes who do not-terribly-nice things, so I can't imagine too many people would be offended by their presence in what, after all, is a comic-book movie.)

And I have to say it was much more entertaining to watch Tony and Yin Sen (Shaun Toub, who does a lot with his little screen time) assemble and use the primitive Iron Man costume than it was as Tony fine-tuned it into a real fighting machine.

That was, in fact, the first point at which "Iron Man" started to lose me a little bit. Not being much of a gadget guy at all (no, I still don't have a cell phone), I took little joy in watching Tony manipulate those ridiculous computers, even if the robot was pretty funny. The only thing that keeps this middle segment from falling apart completely is Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, who's as charmingly loyal as she is simply stunning in that rather backless evening dress. She really does need to work more often.

It's the first payoff from all this high-tech tinkering around that delivered the best scene from "Iron Man" as he tests the suit out for the first time and exacts a bit of revenge. It worked both as a very funny poke at the military (which, this being a comic-book movie after all, seems to have Howard's Rhodes serving in every branch around the world) and the kind of gee-whiz levity I sorely needed as the clock hit about 11:45 p.m. (well past my usual bedtime on a school night.)

The final chapter, with its inevitable showdown, was easily the weakest of the three, but brief enough so as not to annoy too much in its anti-climacticness. Jeff Bridges does indeed make a very bad Obadiah Stane, even if it was rather obvious that when you shave The Dude's head he's gonna indeed be nothing but evil. The very ending, however, (which you won't hear about from me, as promised), is just the perfect cliffhanger, and left me, at least, definitely wanting more.

So, why no real mention of Robert Downey Jr.? Well, watching "Iron Man" it's clear that Favreau steered clear of most the baggage that Tony Stark carries, which would given Downey a lot more chance to shine. He's good here, but you get the definite feeling he's gonna be truly great when Tony Stark's shortcomings inevitably come to play in "Iron Man 2."

And overall, despite my previously mentioned quibbles, "Iron Man" was just the perfect way to kick off the summer, and after some initial reservations I'm now convinced that "Speed Racer" this week will also just be a treat. From the first three minutes, which you can watch below, and other clips I have seen it does indeed seem like the Wachowski's have managed to preserve much of the anime feel and keep this what it should be - a movie for kids of all ages. And yes, to make one more mention of "Friday Night Lights," I believe that is indeed "FNL" vet Scott Porter in the race car cockpit with young Speed. Enjoy, and have a perfectly bearable Monday. Peace out.


Bob said...

I liked it too. There will be better movies this summer but there will be many more that are worse. It's just a lot of fun.

Ian said...

I spend the first half hour of "Speed Racer" trying to work out where I'd seen the actor playing Speed Racer's brother "Rex" before.

It wasn't until I got home and did a search on imdb I made the connection with FNL. Doh!

Reel Fanatic said...

It's probably a fairly sad statement on how much of a life I have that I tend to notice such things so quickly, Ian .. I should probably find room in my brain for more important stuff!

Chalupa said...

You said Bridges made a bad Obadiah Stane. Who would you have rather seen in that role?

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't think I really said he was bad, Chalupa ... I like Jeff Bridges a heck of a lot, and he clearly had fun with this one ... It was more the way the role was written than anything he did .. And I frankly can't think of anyone who would have been better .. I liked the fact that he was playing an industrialist too because "Tucker," as sappy as it is, is just one of my favorite flicks, so it was nice to see him play the flip side of that

Chalupa said...

Ok. I didn't think you meant Bridges gave a bad performance - just wanted to make sure I understood you. Supposedly we're going to be interviewing him for the podcast but his PR person isn't too quick on responding to me about when.

Reel Fanatic said...

Definitely let me know if you land that one, Chalupa .. I'll certainly tune in to hear what The Dude had to say!

Mercurie said...

I loved Iron Man as well. I especially liked Stan Lee's cameo in this one (for once if you blinked you wouldn't miss it!).

Anonymous said...

any idea what the GK track is called? -red

Anonymous said...