This movie bothered me — but not because it was bad. I’m what one might call a Superman fan, so it irks me that a second-string Marvel character like Iron Man gets a class-act flick like this and Superman, arguably the most recognized (and before ‘Returns’, most admired) superhero, gets rubbish. That said, this post isn’t about Superman, but if anyone from Warner Bros. with any level of control watches ‘Iron Man,’ they should take some notes on what makes a good superhero movie.

‘Iron Man’ succeeds on something most superhero movies don’t have: solid writing. There is considerable punch between Downey, Jr. and Paltrow throughout this film, and each deliver his/her lines with credible accuracy. Downey, Jr. may not fit the category of blockbuster actor and certainly wasn’t on anyone’s shortlist of superhero physiques, but he is almost perfect as the troubled and transformed Tony Stark. Paltrow also deserves some credit for her role as Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts — some might say she hasn’t really done any acting since ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (and this isn’t wholly without merit) — but she nevertheless puts forth a classy effort. Paltrow is admittedly an acquired taste — there are many who think she was miscast in this role but I do not share that opinion. If you want to see a truly miscast female lead, see Kate Bosworth in ‘Superman Returns’.

The plot is serviceable and the action sequences – though few – are well-played. That said, some comic gurus will probably notice one-too many similarities with Chris Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ but let’s be frank, Tony Stark is in many ways a chopped up version of Bruce Wayne. There aren’t as many surprises in the story and the back-stabbing possibilities become awfully apparent early on. What perhaps kept me glued to the screen was how good ‘Iron Man’ turned out despite the character’s position in the pantheon of superhero creations. ‘Iron Man’ is no Wolverine, and his following has always been more cult-ish than mass. That will probably change with this film. Marvel and Favreau have somehow legitimized alchemy; they’ve taken brass and turned it into gold. Kudos to them.

And yet as surprising good as ‘Iron Man’s’ debut is, it isn’t an off-the-scale shocker. ‘Iron Man’ is the first of hopefully many movies Marvel is financing itself. That’s right, after some miserable outings (anyone remember ‘Ghost Rider’? No one? Good.), Marvel decided it best to manually bring its characters to the big screen versus licensing them off to studios such as Sony or Fox. If Iron Man is any indication, this was clearly the right move for the comic book giant. This makes so much sense and honestly, is something I’ve always scratched my head about. Why movie studios often put people unfamiliar with the properties to make them was frankly lost on me. Singer never read a Superman comic (or for that matter, any comic) growing up. Some believe his X-Men movies were gold – I’m of the opinion they were decent; spectacular only because no one had made or seen serious superhero movies in a long time. But I’d bet that superhero films would be miles better if we put the likes of Busiek, Morrison, Miller, and Moore on them. Art direction by creators like Lee, Ross, Campbell, and Maduriera (and maybe even Warren) would put to shame what we’ve seen in a good number of superhero movies.

So here’s to Marvel’s ‘Iron Man’; I hope to see many sequels — but please don’t become ‘Batman and Robin’. And to DC Comics, please get off your rear ends and try to wrestle more control away from Warner Bros. before it turns the rest of your beloved franchises into wretched abominations; see ‘Catwoman‘.

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