Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man

Ironman Photo
Originally uploaded by AsceticMonk

Tony Stark is not your typical superhero. He does not have special powers, there are no radioactive accidents, alien origins, or cataclysmic events that cause him to gain abilities greater than other humans. His power is much more than that. Tony Stark grows a conscience.

At the beginning of the story of Tony Stark is the typical billionaire playboy; he’s a womanizer, a genius, an alcoholic. Stark is concerned with nothing more than making the next cool new weapon that will maintain American power and having a good time, and if he can he’d like to do both at the same time. He’s unreliable, and frequently puts his best friends and advisors on the spot, yet he is beloved by his friends and the public. He is the resident “mad scientist” and figurehead of Stark Industries, the leading supplier of high tech weapons to the American Government.

It is on one of his good-will, weapon demonstration trips to Afghanistan that Tony Stark’s life is forever changed. While riding back to the military base from the demonstration site with a full military escort the caravan is attacked and Tony is kidnapped.

Once in captivity Stark begins his transformation into a hero; he sees first hand that his view of the world and what the company that bears his name does, that they not only supply weapons to the good guys but that the villains of the world end up with them as well and he is in some part responsible for the death and destruction around him. Stark realizes that he should have died in the accident/kidnapping, and uses his newfound knowledge of the world to turn his life around and begin to make a difference.

After a daring escape Tony Stark returns home a new man to the skepticism of others. He secretly begins work utilizing the technology that is now keeping shrapnel out of his heart, a power source that will turn the suit of armor he is designing into his new alter ego – Iron Man.

Tony Stark is relatively unique in the world of super heroes. His only equivalent that I can think of is Bruce Wayne in the DC universe who is also a hero who is merely human but rises to hero status when he chooses to do something about the injustices that he sees in the world around him. However, what makes Tony Stark truly unique is that he refuses to hide behind his alter ego and will not use his costume as a shroud to protect his identity. He is Iron Man, and he doesn’t care if the whole world knows it, in fact he announces it to them. Even though he goes through a drastic character change he is still deeply flawed, prideful, and a whole other pantheon of issues Tony Stark becomes more and more human, yet this makes him a super hero.

It is in light of this unique and flawed character of Tony Stark/Iron Man that this film works so well. Jon Favreau obviously sympathizes with the human qualities of the character and fought to not make a generic hero movie, but get actors that could make these comic book characters truly genuine and human. The foremost example of this is the phenomenal Robert Downey Jr.

When first cast some skepticism arose over whether Robert Downey Jr. could pull off a movie like this, no one was doubting his acting skills, he just didn’t seem like the hero-type. But this is exactly what makes him so perfect for the part; over the years his flaws have become a matter of public knowledge, and he’s proven that he’s worked to get over them, but still struggles – just like Tony Stark.

The importance of casting was not ignored in the other roles in the film as well. There is Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Tony Startk’s personal assistant famous for being willing to do anything for Tony, and beloved by Stark because she is capable of running his life in a way he cannot. Terrance Howard plays Jim Rhodes a military officer, liaison between the armed forces & Stark Industries and lifelong friend of Tony. Jeff Bridges grows a beard and goes bald to play the co-head of Stark Industries Obadiah Stone, who becomes the catalyst to creating Iron Man’s first super villain.

The end result pulls the Marvel movie franchisee’s back to the likes of the first two Spiderman movies and away from the likes of The Fantastic Four. This is not a child’s superhero movie, but one much more adult and as a result much more real and entertaining.

Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Mark Fugus & Hawk Ostby
Tony Stark: Robert Downey Jr.
Pepper Potts: Gwenyth Paltrow
Jim Rhodes: Terrance Howard
Obadiah Stone: Jeff Daniels
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson
Christine Everhart: Leslie Bibb

Tony Stark: They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I prefer the weapon you only need to fire once. That's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

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