“That’s the coolest thing I‘ve ever seen.”
Academy Award-nominated actor Terrence Howard in Iron Man
Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it’s hard to argue that Iron Man is the best English-language film to hit Chinese theaters in a very very long time. And as far as the comic book movie genre is concerned, this may be one of the best offerings to date.
The Iron Man movie more or less follows the story of the Marvel comic book it is based upon: Uber-genius inventor Tony Stark is injured by a bomb blast that leaves shrapnel in his heart and requires an electromagnet to keep him from dying. He is taken prisoner by terrorists who attempt to coerce him into building them weapons, but instead he constructs the ultimate weapon, a highly-sophisticated suit of bionic metal armor, which he uses to escape the terrorists. He then perfects the design, builds an even cooler suit and proceeds to whoop the asses of various evildoers. Did we mention that it allows him to fly as well?
Awesomeness aside, this is a film about the struggle to confront the paradoxes of modern America. How do you stop the proliferation of weapons without creating more (and more dangerous) weapons? How do you help humanity when living in a profit-driven culture that values the short-term profits of war more than the long lasting benefits of peace? With so many choices, what kind of burger should we be eating (Hint: BK) and furthermore, how can I sleep with my secretary without coming across like a scumbag? Okay, so maybe this movie is ‘about’ something as much as the next super-hero movie is, but why not? The last time Marvel films tried to go cerebral with
What really gives Iron Man its charm is the laid back tone and sense of humor imparted by director Jon Favreau (best known as the writer/lead actor in the 90s hit Swingers) and his talented cast which includes not only Howard, but also Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Robert Downey Jr. as the cocky playboy arms dealer with a drinking problem (quite a stretch, right?) turned Iron Man. It’s a movie that never takes itself too seriously and, as a result, scores more than a few laughs in the process. The level of playfulness that Sam Rami’s Spiderman trilogy only achieved at its best moments, Iron Man is able to maintain throughout and, as a consequence, you don’t find yourself constantly looking at your watch and wondering when the next tank is going to explode.
This is a movie best seen in a theater, but in this country that does not come without its annoyances. Censors went to town on this seemingly uncontroversial film lopping off close to half an hour worth of content for no apparent reason, often cutting away at seriously inopportune moments. Though the comic book did take a hard line on Communism during the Cold War, little to none of that political tilt can be found in the movie, but who says these things need to make sense? What’s more frustrating is that the projectionist at our screening turned off the reel the minute after the credits started and this film allegedly has a can’t-miss post-credit scene with a very well known actor not featured in the movie (Hint: he’s a badass [email protected]#*%er). This may have only been because we saw the last screening of the night, but it was irritating nonetheless.
At a moment near the film’s conclusion Terrence Howard, playing Jim Rhodes (Starks’ air force buddy) looks longingly at a silver prototype of the armor suit. In the comic book version Rhodes eventually takes over the Iron Man character following Starks’ descent into alcoholism, a storyline we assume will play into the inevitable sequel. “Next time, baby,” he says. We can’t wait.
Shanghai showtimes can be found here.