Iron Man (2008) – Film Review

Before ‘The Avengers’ or the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ hit the silver screen, director Jon Favreau began the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its first character: ‘Iron Man.’ Blowing audiences away with some incredible visual effects, thrilling action scenes and a very charismatic lead performance by Robert Downey Jr. as the egotistical: ‘Tony Stark.’ Considering the film was self-financed by Marvel and had a mostly improvised script, it’s incredibly impressive that ‘Iron Man’ is as entertaining and as exhilarating as it is by today’s standards.

Plot Summary: After being held captive by terrorists in an Afghan cave for months, billionaire and weapons engineer: ‘Tony Stark’ builds a weaponised suit of armour to fight his way out after discovering his weapons are being used for a more sinister purpose. Yet even after safely returning home, ‘Tony’ soon uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, forcing him to don his new suit once again and vow to protect the world as ‘Iron Man.’

Although most now know ‘Iron Man’ as a superhero icon, at the time in 2008, ‘Tony Stark’ was a relatively unknown character. Similar to ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America,’ many of Marvel’s ‘B’ characters truly owe their now enormous fan-bases and iconic statuses mostly to their first appearances in Marvel’s live-action film franchise, with the first ‘Iron Man’ in particular, adapting the character’s comic book origins fairly closely into a hugely-successful action-blockbuster.

The supporting cast of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Clark Gregg and Shaun Toub are great throughout the film despite only serving small roles within the story. However, it should go without saying that Robert Downey Jr. as ‘Iron Man’ himself absolutely nails it throughout the film, as he delivers every line of dialogue as an arrogant pretentious genius. ‘Tony Stark’ even gives the narrative an engaging thread with his character-arc throughout the film, becoming more likeable as the plot continues on, and although done many times before, it still feels pretty satisfying by the end of the runtime. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Iron Man’ is the same issue that most Marvel flicks suffer from, this being the film’s weak antagonist. As although Jeff Bridges does attempt to give his character: ‘Obadiah Stane’ as much depth as possible, his transformation from a greedy executive to murderous psychopath feels extremely rushed and undeveloped.

Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is fairly creative throughout the film however, from the various tracking shots of: ‘Tony’ soaring through the sky in his suit, through to shots of: ‘Iron Man’ taking down groups of terrorists. A large majority of the cinematography backs-up the quick-pacing of the film and utilises movement very effectively. Whilst the film isn’t ever overly-focused on its science fiction elements aside from the suit itself, the CG effects throughout the film still hold-up very well to say that was it was released in 2008, aside from the occasional shot of: ‘Tony Stark’s head being placed on-top of the suit.

The original score by Ramin Djawadi is a soundtrack which perfectly fits alongside the character of: ‘Iron Man,’ as the score makes excellent use of electric guitars and a drum kit to match ‘Tony’s young rock-star-like personality and taste in music, as there are multiple scenes of: ‘Tony Stark’ listening to rock songs such as: ‘Back in Black’ and ‘Institutionalised’ throughout the film. Not to mention ‘Black Sabbath’s now-iconic: ‘Iron Man’ played-over the end credits.

Even though all of the action scenes throughout the film are quite short, each action set-piece is always exciting from start-to-finish, as ‘Iron Man’ takes-down his enemies with style every-time, utilising an array of different weapons and gadgets the film manages to still represent ‘Tony Stark’s cocky personality through these suited-up action scenes. ‘Iron Man’ was also the first film that kicked-off Marvel’s typical style of humour, and while not as noticeable as some of Marvel’s other films, the film still contains plenty of scenes in which ‘Tony’ makes sarcastic comments or degrades those around him, and while many of these moments do make for some decent comic relief, I could see many of these scenes becoming irritating for those who don’t enjoy this type of comedy.

Despite its few flaws, ‘Iron Man’ was one hell of an opener for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As without this film, we truly wouldn’t have what is now considered one of the most successful franchises in cinematic history, even with this ignored however, the film is still exceedingly fun and is filled with plenty of memorable moments on its own, all of this of course held-up by the brilliant performance from Robert Downey Jr. If you finally want to get around to watching this long-running film series, I’d say the original: ‘Iron Man’ will definitely prepare you for what’s to come. Final Rating: 8/10.


Cloverfield (2008) – Film Review

Personally, I’m not an enormous fan of found-footage horror films (especially when it comes to many modern horrors). However, ‘Cloverfield’ is a rare exception to this, as when this film was first announced, it was surrounded in mystery. As the images and clips that were released revealed literally nothing about the film’s plot. Now, years after it’s release, we know it’s a large-scale classic monster throwback, all brought-together with a dark atmosphere, clearly inspired by classic monster flicks such as the original: ‘Godzilla,’ ‘King Kong,’ ‘Mothra’ and ‘Gorgo.’

Plot Summary: After the U.S. Defense Department discover a videotape in the former Central Park, the located footage reveals a group of friends celebrating a surprise farewell party in the apartment of: ‘Rob Hawkins’ in Lower Manhattan, that is until the footage continues on, and soon begins to show an event far more disturbing…

The film opens with a U.S. Defense Department logo, shortly followed by footage of our main protagonist and his girlfriend in bed. This blending of old footage mixed in with the new footage of the attack is a great way of giving some development to the characters, alongside breaking up the large amounts of chaotic action the film sometimes falls into. The film’s reasoning for this is explained early on in it’s runtime, as the current tape we are watching is recording over another.

Aside from Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller, the rest of the cast are mostly unknown. I would say they all did a decent job, as the majority of their screen-time is consisted of running and panicking as they make their way through the streets of New York, however. I really enjoyed Lizzy Caplan’s performance, in particular, as her character: ‘Marlena’ gets thrown into an intense and painful situation later in the story. This also results in one of the most disturbing/memorable scenes of the film. But unfortunately, the characters aren’t given a huge amount of development, aside from a few short scenes throughout the film.

Being a found-footage film as it is, the cinematography within the film is almost entirely hand-held. Usually utilising a large amount of camera movement to block the audience’s view of the creature in the early stages of the film. Which does really help build tension and excitement, as well as add to the overall mystery that initially surrounded the film. However, the constant and aggressive shaking of the camera can sometimes become a little overwhelming, even if it does result in some thrilling action scenes. The film obviously also doesn’t have an original score due to its found-footage style.

Another element of the film I quite is the design of the monster, as the design seen throughout the film is very original and really gives off a powerful and intimidating feel, which does enhance the film’s visuals. However, one element of the visuals I don’t enjoy is the film’s colour palette, as it can make the film feel a little too much like a typical action blockbuster or clichĂ© horror at points.

The film does also have plenty of memorable moments throughout, as the film’s narrative goes on, New York City becomes more and more destroyed. This allows our group of characters to make their way through the monster’s path of destruction, avoiding dangerous areas and making fantastic use of the large sets and CG effects the film presents on-screen.

To conclude, I quite enjoy ‘Cloverfield,’ although it’s now become part of a strange almost anthology-like film franchise with the likes of: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and ‘The Cloverfield Paradox.’ The initial idea of a simple found-footage monster film always intrigued me, and I’m happy to say director Matt Reeves, producer J.J. Abrams and writer Drew Goddard all did a decent job here, as even though weak characterisation and overly shaky cinematography do let the film down somewhat, great tension building as well as the film’s superb level of realism and some brilliant creature designs, keep the film interesting enough to enjoy. Final Rating: low 7/10.