Sunday, May 04, 2008

He's the Cool Exec with a Heart of Steel

Karen and I saw "Iron Man" yesterday and liked it a lot. As a once-enthusiastic collector of "The Avengers," Marvel Comics' Justice-League-like supergroup that Iron Man helped form, I'm an old fan of shellhead's adventures.

I found the film very respectful of its source material--unlike many comic book adaptations that wink at their origins--and surprisingly faithful. Southeast Asia circa 1963 was easily updated to Afghanistan today. It has a nice mix of humor and action. Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark perfectly as a suave mix of Howard Hughes, Bill Gates and Errol Flynn. Stark has a satisfying emotional arc from insouciant weapons dealer to conscience-stricken knight, and Jeff Bridges plays the villain Stane with a great combination of warmth and menace. You'd believe he was your best friend until the second he stuck a knife in your ribs, and might even believe him when he said he regretted doing it.

All in all, I'd call it one of the best comic book movies ever and, more importantly, a movie that audiences completely unfamiliar with Iron Man (admittedly a second-tier character) will enjoy. My only caveat is that it's fairly violent; Iron Man doesn't hesitate to kill bad guys who deserve it, and though the deaths are mostly bloodless and off-screen, they might be too much for young or sensitive viewers.

That's all well and good, but I don't normally post movie reviews unless I have ulterior motives. In this case, I noticed an end credit acknowledging the work of four men in creating Iron Man: editor Stan Lee, (who makes his customary cameo in the film), writer Larry Lieber (Stan's brother, who wrote Iron Man's early stories), Jack Kirby (who I believe designed Iron Man's first armor), and ... Don Heck, Iron Man's first artist. I wrote about Mr. Heck in April, citing him as my personal example of an artist whose work I didn't appreciate until my critical eye had matured. Heck's loose brushwork was perfect for the Swingin' Sixties James Bond vibe of the early Iron Man stories. It was nice to see a maligned artist get his deserved due.

Iron Man sketch by Don Heck, done in the late 1960s

5 comments:

Steve said...

I am not a comic book guy for the most part and had never heard of Iron Man before the previews to this movie. I almost didn't even go see it, but the good reviews by the critics made me decide to give it a chance. I was NOT disappointed. It was fantastic. I wrote a whole review too. Check it out at our site, http://mysocialstandards.blogspot.com to see it.

l said...

Iron man was a really good movie! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Tony Stark's character, he was funny in all the right moments in that enjoyable witty sort of way. I was just happy that it turned out so good, from the previews I thought it was just going to be another overrated superhero movie. I'm happy to be proved wrong!

Kid Sis said...

Oh, I menat to tell you that! I was the only one who yelled "Don Heck! Whoo!"...but...at least there was one.

Did you see Defamer's Ant Man piece?

Brian Fies said...

I'd heard about Ant Man (and Captain America, Thor, et al) elsewhere. I'm not as excited as you are about a big screen Avengers movie. I think Captain America has the material to make a terrific film because it can be aboutsomething, but I'm much less optimistic about the rest (Thor? Really?). And I'm afraid that superheroes who look great by themselves will look incredibly, unavoidably stupid when you put six of them around a big table with an "A" in the center and start calling roll. I'm not saying I'm ashamed of comic books, just that some things are SO uniquely comic-booky I think they have a hard time working as anything else. So.... I'll wait and see. But hooray for Don Heck!

Kid Sis said...

Agreed. But I'm still game. Why not?

Geez, my favorite roll call EVER was that one from the late 70s with like 80 of 'em...Mantis, Jocasta, Swordsman, Hercules, that chick with the flame hair...I think the Inhumans were even in there too, and Gyrich whittled it down to 6 or 7 and everyone was PISSED when the last slot was taken by...

And my childhood memories fail right there...

Was it The Falcon? Beast?

I really can't remember. I think I remember Vision and Scarlet Witch exiting for a while, so it wasn't them...