Tuesday, May 06, 2008
seductions in the dark: Jon Favreau's "Iron Man" - The $100-Million Iraq War Movie
Jon Favreau, bless him, has been able to accomplish what no other contemporary filmmaker has been able to do, not even a master of Brian DePalma's stature.
With his shrewdly-made - and very well-made - new film, "Iron Man," Favreau has conjured up the first movie about the on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the private contractors and profitteering that drive them, that moviegoers not only are willing sit through but are actually clamoring to see.
Favreau's film opened to $100.8 million in ticket sales over the weekend.
Unlike other CG-driven films, "Iron Man" is serious (rather than just somber), intelligent (instead of just glib) and leisurely-paced. Credited scenarists Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway have provided Favreau with material whose first hour is actually devoted to detailed exposition and character delineation. They've also penned some crackling, hugely literate dialogue.
As a result, the remarkable Robert Downey, Jr. is able to Method-Act his way into the role of filthy-rich (and often soddened) entrepreneur Tony Stark, whose Fortune 500 company, Stark Enterprises , provides the United States military (and, by extention, its enemies) with high-tech weaponry used in New Age wars.
That is, until Tony's own body is left wracked by his inventions and he is suddenly stricken with pangs of conscience.
Tony reinvents himself as Iron Man, the ultimate lethal weapon, as he mutters monologues and dialogue about the "accountability" of people in power. Sound familiar?
"Iron Man" may have the hard, handsome appearance of the super-hero flick, but there's a subtext here that's decidedly political.
Gwyneth Paltrow is an unexpected and refreshing presence as Pepper Potts, Tony's efficient but womanly assistant, and a near unrecognizable Jeff Bridges seems to be channeling Fred Thompson in the role of Obadiah Stane, Tony's duplicitious, hawk-like older partner. (I have no doubt that, had this film been made a decade ago, Thompson himself would have played this role.)
Favreau, who has come a long way as a filmmaker since "Made" (2001) and "Elf" (2003), two modest hits, has quite simply given us the best film of the year to date. That may not mean much to you, but the only other films this year that I've come even remotely close to admiring are Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges," George Clooney's "Leatherheads" and Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream."
What can I say? It's been that kind of year. For me, at least.
(Artwork: Robert Downey, Jr. as Marvel Comcis' Tony Stark, aka Iron Man; and his ever-maturing director, Favreau)
Posted by joe baltake at 7:17 PM