Heavy boots of lead
Fills his victims full of dread
Running as fast as they can
Iron man lives again!
Ozzy Osbourne first sang those words with Black Sabbath in 1970. Almost forty years later they've made for the perfect opener to my Iron Man review. Thanks Ozzy. For the most part I try to avoid theaters on opening weekends. Especially when it's an opening weekend for a superhero movie. But, for the sake of keeping current I decided I'd go for it anyway. I'm glad I did.
First the facts. The advantage of waking up a noon and being lazy enough not to post until later at night actually worked to my advantage this time. It was originally reported by Paramount that the estimated take for the weekend was $100.5 million with a cumulative gross of over $104 million. They apparently estimated a bit high. Later in the day it was established that it was only $98.6 million for the weekend and over $102 million when screenings from Thursday night were factored in. I'm sure the studio would have loved that first figure to hold but it's impressive none-the-less. Iron Man has now become the second- highest debut for a non-sequel film, the first being the original Spider-Man, and the tenth best opening of all-time.
Iron Man is the first film to be financed fully by Marvel and with it's success it's no wonder that a sequel has not only been rumored but already has a release date for April 30, 2010. In fact because of successful numbers for parent company Marvel Entertainment Inc. they went ahead and announced a whole slew of new comic related movies to be released in the next three years. Thor will follow the Iron Man sequel in June 2010, and Captain America (May) and The Avengers (July) will have the spotlight in 2011. Those are in addition to films already set for the rest of this year and next like Ant-Man, Punisher: War Zone, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk which hits theaters June 13.
Enough of the business end of things. How was the actual movie? Simple. It was great. One of the better superhero movies I've ever seen. I'm not sure what to actually call the main plot of the film. They spent a lot of time on Tony Stark's evolution into Iron Man which was obviously a good idea. Vietnam was swapped, in my opinion, seamlessly for modern day Afghanistan as the birthplace of Iron Man. There Tony is held against his will by Raza (Faran Tahir from Lost and the upcoming Star Trek film) who leads the terrorist group "The Order of the Ten Rings" and told to build them a missile system. Of course Tony has other plans after seeing what stolen weapons from his company have done.
Then there was the second plot thread which involved Tony's business partner and friend Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges, who is supposed to be the primary villain. He's the "Iron Monger" that Iron Man goes up against at the end and who puts the damsel, Pepper Pots played by Gwyneth Paltrow, in distress. The only reason I can see for calling this the main plot is because it's the second half of the film. Speaking realistically, this was an origin movie and having Iron Man fight a more closely matched, and similar looking, foe could have been another film altogether. Putting both in one movie could be the reason that second plot felt underdeveloped.
Putting all of that aside, the movie was just plain awesome and Robert Downey Jr. was born for this role. He oozes charisma without even trying. Everyone wants to be him or be with him, even if he is a budding alcoholic and a womanizer. The romance between Tony and Pepper was played incredibly well considering. It was a relief to me that it almost couldn't be considered a romance. Superhero movies tend to get bogged down by insisting on these grand love affairs for their main characters. Iron Man did it just right.
I'm also fairly relieved to report there were no overtly corny moments in the film. Being corny hasn't worked in superhero movies since the original Superman with Christopher Reeves. Since then we've had such gems as, "I'm the Juggernaut bitch" and Peter Parker dancing. Now those are all well and good for increasing ridiculous YouTube videos but they make me cringe. Hopefully Iron Man won't fall into that trap in it's sequel.
There were a lot of little moments that worked well. Jim Rhodes, played by Terrence Howard, made just a slight nod to himself taking on the mantel of War Machine in the future when he spots the silver version of the Iron Man suit. Howard was supposedly cast with this in mind. Stan Lee makes probably my all-time favorite cameo of himself. While walking a red carpet Tony mistakes him for Hugh Hefner. Clark Gregg plays Agent Phil Coulson who, at first, you think of as an annoying government official there to debrief Tony on the incident in Afghanistan sent from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. You think to yourself, my, what a ludicrously long agency name. Pepper even suggests they get a better name. But they already have. S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course if you didn't stay until after the credits you missed the last bit of nerdyness. Tony comes home after revealing to the press, "I am Iron Man," to find a man in the shadows of his living room. The man steps forward to reveal his face. It's Samuel L. Jackson, or rather, the Ultimate Nick Fury. He tells Tony he's just become part of something much larger and that they need to talk about the "Avenger Initiative".
Just an aside, I found something interesting while looking at the cast for Iron Man on imdb. Peter Billingsley, yes, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, was in Iron Man. He's credited as someone named William. Not only that, he was an executive producer! All I can say is good for him.
So Iron Man is a box-office success as well as a fan success. I have to admit, one of my favorite parts of the whole movie was Tony Stark's robots. They were adorable for machinery. Anyway, we'll see if it will hold the number one spot this weekend once Speedracer is released. Don't hold your breath on a review for that one.