Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Heavy Metal

Ever since I found myself blessed with children, trips to the cinema have been rare. Being a refined intellectual, I suppose I should try to see the finest in art house fare during those odd evenings out. Screw that. If I make it to the movies just once or twice a year, I want to see some shit get blown up.

So I saw Iron Man over the weekend. And I hereby declare that it’s the greatest comic book movie ever made. By a mile.

Many (if not most) superhero stories suffer in translation to the big screen. When I was a kid, the X-Men was – far and away – my favorite comic book series. But the movies, while entertaining in their own slight way, try to cram too many ideas into too little time, and their premises (the guy was born with laser beams shooting out of his eyes? Really?) seem more plausible on pulp than celluloid.

Iron Man, on the other hand, was a minor player in my childhood (the box in the basement suggests that I owned only three issues – numbers 87, 88 and 161), but he’s perfect for film. A genius weapons manufacturer designs a sophisticated battle suit? That could happen.

The set-up, though, is just half of it. Director Jon Favreau engages in some expert, nuanced storytelling. And this film is perfectly cast. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard are terrific, but Robert Downey comes on like a force of nature in the title role. The film is fast, funny and phenomenally entertaining.

But you probably already know this. I just wanted to gush.

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