Monday, May 05, 2008

An unlikely hero

And I don't mean Iron Man - I mean Robert Downey, Jr.

Look, I'd be happy to watch Robert Downey, Jr. read the phone book. So, when he's given the chance to do more than that, I'm pretty darn pleased about it. Because there aren't that many actors who let you in on the joke quite the way he does. And there just aren't that many guys who are that damn cool. I'm talking Sean Connery in Dr. No cool. Steve McQueen cool. Keith Richards only wishes cool. That cool.

Casting Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark is up there with casting John Travolta as Vincent Vega. It's no surprise to me that Iron Man is the second biggest 3-day release for a non-sequel in the history of Hollywood - after only the first Spiderman (who is also, by the way, a Marvel comics hero, and a member of the Avengers - but more on that in a minute). Up to two weeks ago, industry buzz was that the studio would be lucky (lucky!) to break a $60 million opening with this flick:

Forget those $80 million or even marvel-par2.jpg$90 million and wild $100 million predictions for the 3-day opening weekend in around 4,000 theaters...
Even the execs say this is not exactly Marvel's best-known comic book character. And the star Robert Downey Jr has never been able to open a movie. And Jon Favreau soiled his rep as Elf's hitmaker with Zathura. Plus, right-wing and/or lefty types might consider the whole plot of the movie to be politically incorrect. And the Iron Man action figure toy sitting on my desk is cheezy [sic] beyond belief. And the beyond-hot video game Grand Theft Auto IV is released April 29th. I could go on and on. (Nikki Finke -

Sure, hind-sight is 20-20 and all that. And no one is 100% right all the time, and I think Nikki Finke is pretty amazingly right pretty amazingly most of the time. But here's my take on why they (and she) should've known better...

  1. Iron Man not being one of the better known comic book characters works in the movie's favor... you don't have to be as careful of mythology when you know you probably won't get caught. Go ahead - take some liberties.
  2. Robert Downey, Jr. hasn't "opened" a movie because no one's given him a movie worth opening - as I've said before, it's not the stars, folks, it's the movies. You think Tobey Maguire is more able to open a movie than RDJ? Get real.
  3. Jon Favreau - how the hell he talked his way into directing this movie (six times the budget of Elf), I have no earthly idea, but kudos to him for that and for the job he did.
  4. Possibly non-PC plot - like this movie's demographic target is really going to care? Hello? We can't even get them to vote.
  5. Cheesy marketing action figures - is it just me, or is that redundant?
  6. GTA IV - Buy the game, go see the movie. These are not mutually exclusive activities. Last I checked.

I have some pretty stringent ideas about the rules of super-hero movies - and with Iron Man, I rest my case. Rules are made to be broken, you say? Well, think about this - follow them (enough of them) and you get Iron Man (RT: 94). Break them and you get Ghost Rider (RT: 28). Need I say more? Didn't think so.

Oh, and the Avengers? Comic books 101, short version:

DC Comics has the Justice League -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter - didn't know about that last one didja? - and some other rotating characters. And we're still waiting for a good Wonder Woman movie, a Green Lantern movie. And, I suppose, a good Aquaman and Martian Manhunter movie too.

Marvel Comics has the Avengers , now known as the Ultimates, who originally included Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk. Like the Justice League, the team was pretty fluid and people, ahem, heroes, came and went, including Nick Fury (if you don't stay for all of the credits in Iron Man, you'll be sorry), Captain America, and others. If you were wondering, Spiderman (and Wolverine, for that matter) wasn't a member of the Avengers, actually the "New Avengers," until quite recently (2005). Ah, marketing.

Let me just say - a movie battle between the Avengers and the Justice League is a-brewing. Stay tuned. Same bat-site. Same bat-blog.

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