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Iron Man
A new era in comic book movies.
Iron Man
From Marvel Comics Comes "Iron Man".
OPENING WEEKEND: $40,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $220,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

December 31st, 2007: Based on the long-running Marvel comic book series, "Iron Man" tells the story of Tony Stark, the enigmatic heir to the Stark Enterprises fortune. A driven inventor and executive who seems to have it all, Tony is haunted by his dark side. Though he commands his empire by day, by night he secretly becomes "Iron Man," the living embodiment of decades of defense spending and innovation. Strapping on billions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art armor and weaponry each night to fight crime, terrorism and corporate espionage, Tony begins to crack under the strain of his fractured lifestyle and must ultimately confront the one enemy he can never beat -- himself.

What to Expect: Comic book adaptations usually come out every nine months. In fact, almost every popular comic book hero has had at least one movie made, while major ones like Spider-Man, Batman and Superman are now billion dollar franchises. Why do the studios love comics so much? Well, to a movie studio they seem like instant success. Most characters have been around for decades giving the movie an instant fan base without spending a dime. The comics are also loaded with hundreds of different storylines to choose from taking the hardest part of coming up with the plot out of the movie making equation. Unfortunately, these advantages also lead to two pitfalls. First, that fan base can turn on you in a heartbeat if you deviate from the comic book too much. Second, if you take the hero and not do a good job of developing the story or the characters, you run the risk of making the movie seem too ridiculous or childish, thereby alienating the audience. Unfortunately, it seems that most comic book movies (Daredevil, Elektra, Cat Woman, Fantastic Four etc.) suffer from these setbacks and end up being major disappointments for both the studio and the fans to the chagrin of the comic's creators who can only helplessly look on.

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Well those times are about to end when Marvel ushers in the new age in comic book movies with the 2008 release of Iron Man. This is going to be the first film that is actually going to be completely produced and financed by the company itself with no input from any major studio. As a result, this movie is going to be completely created by people who know and love the comic, instead of a bunch of profit conscious studio execs. Marvel is really in it for the long haul, instead of just trying to flip a profit on a single movie. The result should be an extremely realistic, true to its origins and will serve as a blueprint for Marvel to bring their vast array of heroes and villains to the big screen.

For all the hype, Marvel almost did not end up making this movie, since in 1990 they had sold the rights for Iron Man to Universal. For the next fifteen years the studios played hot potato with the rights, with it reaching various levels of production before being passed on. The closest it ever got was five years ago when New Line Cinema drafted a script and even hired a director, but then the production stalled, leaving Iron Man as the only major Marvel character to never have a movie. The reason this happened was because Iron Man is easily one of the toughest heroes to bring to the big screen for two reasons. First, it is a person in a high tech power suit that has a lot of weapons and capabilities. This requires a large amount of expensive special effects which, until recently, made it fiscally impossible. The second reason is the man inside the suit, Tony Stark, who is constantly battling his own demons ranging from hubris to substance abuse. Thus, if a studio was going to do the movie right, they would have had to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to make it with a very conflicted and sometimes unlikable hero. Each studio tried and failed to reconcile these facets of Iron Man and the movie rights expired, reverting back to Marvel who had recently formed Marvel Studios for the purpose of expanding into the film industry. Having the comic book publisher making their own movies has several advantages. It allows for them to use the comic writers who understand their characters and stories better than anyone. Marvel also owns the rights to all their heroes except for Spiderman which allows for all superheroes to interact and cross paths in the movies just as they did in the comics. This is on full display in Iron Man. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has a minor part in this one, and will appear in other Marvel movies including his own. Fury will go on to recruit many Marvel heroes to form the Avengers, which will in turn have a film tentatively scheduled for 2011. Finally, the most intriguing appearance is by Hillary Swank. It has been a well kept secret as to what character she is, some have theorized it to be Black Widow, Sharon Carter (Captain America's girlfriend) or even the female Hulk, but we will not know until we see the movie. All we do know is that it is done to set up a future full feature film starring her. Merryl Lynch realized some of these advantages and invested over half a billion dollars in the fledgling studio.

Marvel Studios jumped on the opportunity and quickly bank rolled Iron Man to the tune of one hundred and fifty million dollars and hired actor/director Jon Favreau to helm. Favreau seemed like a natural choice because he is a huge fan of the entire Marvel universe, he had previously acted in the failed Daredevil adaptation with Ben Affleck and has been itching to apply the lessons he learned to another comic movie. He felt that Daredevil spent too much of their budget on big Hollywood actors (Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell) and really did not focus on the realism or quality of the actual script. Where Daredevil's universe seemed to be bordering on the preposterous, Favreau wanted to make Iron Man extremely realistic in feel like the new Batman franchise. He wanted it to have the feel of an independent movie or a documentary, instead of the colorful, graphic comic film that we are used to seeing. Favreau also really wanted the movie to stay true to the comic book down to the smallest detail. To accomplish this challenging task he surrounded himself with people who grew up on the comic, and tried to interact with the fans as much as possible, by giving them unprecedented input in making the movie. He even set up a MySpace page for that purpose where he received many ideas for the story and opened up some of his for discussion. As a result, Favreau created a plot that is very similar to the comic.

In the movie, Tony Stark is a billionaire weapons designer who is captured by terrorists in Afghanistan who force him to develop weapons for them. Stark instead builds an armored suit with flame throwers and uses it to escape. After escaping, he comes across a downed air force pilot, Jim Rhodes, and helps him return to an American base. The two become instant friends and continue to work together. This is exactly how it happens in the comic, except the location is changed from Vietnam to Afghanistan because Favreau did not want to make a period piece about the Vietnam era; instead he wanted the movie to be current and relevant. After his escape, Tony Stark continues to improve on the suit, adding new capabilities and weapon systems to the armor. He then continues to use the suit to battle international terrorism, including his nemesis, Iron Monger, as well as international and corporate espionage. The director wanted to create more than just a superhero movie, but a mix of superhero, spy thriller and political thriller. A very ambitious undertaking if you ask me that leads to one problem: Tony Stark is a military contractor who is an extremely patriotic, pro US government character, which is an extremely unpopular position to have in today's anti-war, anti-Bush society. However, Favreau did not want to deviate too much from the comic and stuck to the original where a lesser man would have eliminated this aspect of Stark's character entirely.

With the main story ready, Favreau turned his attention to casting, being careful not to blow his entire budget. He first cast Robert Downey Jr. to star as Tony Stark. Favreau felt that Downey's own well publicized battles with addiction would allow him to best relate to the character of Stark. Downey has not worked much since his issues with cocaine abuse and was really excited about the prospect of bringing the character to life. He was a life long fan of the comic book and really understood the challenges of "making a wealthy, establishmentarian, weapons manufacturing, hard drinking, womanizing prick into someone who is likable and a hero." He trained very hard for the part, spending hours at the gym weight training to bulk up and even undergoing martial arts training. Then, Favreau recruited Gwyneth Paltrow to play Virginia 'Pepper' Potts, Stark's trusty assistant and one of the only people who knows Iron Man's true identity. Paltrow is not a true Iron Man fan, but luckily her husband Chris Martin of Coldplay fame is, and made his collection of hundreds of comics available to her. Finally, Terrence Howard was cast as Jim Rhodes and Jeff Bridges as Iron Monger. Bridges is an excellent choice for a villain, who shaved his signature long "hobo" hair, completely redefining his look for the movie. Then of course there are the cameos. A very funny one is by Marvel godfather Stan Lee as Hugh Hefner. Another one is by rapper Ghostface Killer. Hip hop fans will know that Ghostface is a huge Iron Man fan, even using Tony Stark as one of his aliases just like his armored hero. I think Ghostface would have been heartbroken if he was not somehow involved. Thus, Favreau was able to assemble a talented cast without using up too much of his budget in the process. As a result the project had a ton of money left over to use where it really needed it, the special effects.

Favreau spent a huge chunk of money and time on the effects. The most daunting of which was designing the armored suit. The team of designers that include comic artist Adi Granov created several life size prototypes each of which were opened up to fan scrutiny on MySpace before a final suit was agreed upon. Then Robert Downey Jr. worked for eight months on motion capture to bring the suit to life. Motion Capture allows for a director to film an actor and then to animate over him. It was most recently used in the movie Beowulf which demonstrated how far the technology has come. Thus, Iron Man's movements should look extremely lifelike to add to the movie's overall realistic feel. No expenses were spared on the other special effects either. Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic (Star Wars, Transformers) handled all the visual affects while the audio was handled by Skywalker Sound. Lucas's sound studio is easily the best in the industry having either won or been nominated for an Oscar every year since 1978.

In Conclusion: So it seems like Iron Man has everything going for it. Yet there is still a chance that this is one of those huge busts that no one sees coming. There are many pitfalls that Favreau must avoid. In this movie he intends to tell the beginning of Iron Man, set up two sequels and about three spin off movies. This is a lot to do in one movie and still entertain the audience. There is a chance that he will spend so much time with set up and character intro that the movie will become too long and boring. Favreau must find a good balance of action and story/character development. The other pitfall is the fact that Tony Stark is a very unlikable hero. The most popular comic characters are ones that have the most likeable and relatable alter egos like Peter Parker or Clark Kent. Thus Robert Downey Jr. must give Tony Stark a very subtle nice side without losing any of Stark's depth or toughness. As long as these potential traps can be avoided, then the movie should be as good as advertised and Marvel will have a huge blockbuster franchise on their hands.

Similar Titles: The Hulk, Spider-Man, Batman Begins
May 2nd, 2008 (wide)
September 30th, 2008 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Jon Favreau

Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, Leslie Bibb, Bill Smitrovich, Nazanin Boniadi, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, Faran Tahir

Total: 542 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content.

126 min





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