Monday, March 31, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Yes, yes, I know you’re all as excited as I am.  Now, as I mentioned in my review of Iron Man 2 that I know you all read, this week I was going to do my review of the Thor film.  I’ll still be getting to that, so don’t you worry.  However, because of the timing of the film that is about to come out in a few days as of the time of this review being launched, I pushed it back in order to tackle the solo film of not only the First Avenger, but who I believe is the best of the Avengers.

Say it with me, kids.

As the man himself once said, “Damn, right.”

Really, this movie is awesome.  I honestly think, pre-The Avengers that there hasn’t been a more awesome movie brought out by Marvel.  And yes, this is me counting every other Phase One film.  And yeah, that’s absolutely right.  This one is the best of the bunch.

Iron Man?  Whatever.  Get that out of here.

Iron Man 2? In your dreams.

Thor? Close, but not quite there.

The Incredible Hulk? No.

This film is literally perfect.  Right down to even the fact that the last ten minutes are essentially a glorified trailer for The Avengers…including the post credits scene, which literally nothing but a glorified trailer for The Avengers.

Beginning in 1942, we are introduced to the main villain Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) as he recovers a mysterious artifact known as the Tesseract, a bright blue cube of unimaginable power that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen the post-credits scene of Thor.  On the other side of the globe, meek young Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is attempting to enlist in the military once again only to be denied.  Despite the insistence that he no longer attempt by his friend James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Steve attempts to enlist once more and, thanks to the wise German scientist Doctor Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), he becomes the American myth, man, and legend.

And that's not inaccurate.  I think Cap has gotten a bad rap over the last few years especially, due to the government that his country has, but the fact is that Steve is not like you would expect.  He's patriotic, but not to the point of douchebaggery.  He's polite around women to the point of shyness.  He wants to help everyone and do everything he can to do so.  At one point he's asked if he wants to join the war effort to kill Nazis and he says no, he wants to fight because he doesn't like bullies.  It's reinforced early on with Steve that he refuses to run away from a fight, despite the odds stacked against him, and Steve sees fighting the Nazis as no different.  Really, to put it basically, this guy is Superman if he had no powers of his own.  Just his own moral compass and determination...then you give him superhero steroids and...
Good golly Miss...err...Agent Carter...

...what does Captain America do with his newfound powers? Rather hilariously, to start, he becomes a USO attraction.  However, seeing what a symbol like Captain America can be – and with a few well-chosen words from his love interest Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – Steve decides to undertake a solo mission to save a captured company of troops and quickly gains respect in the eyes of his fellows soldiers.  Afterwards, he spends the rest of the movie taking part in the common American past time in the 1940s – namely kicking ass and taking names.

Really, I don’t know what more I can say about this movie.  The story manages to be a sweeping war epic that somehow doesn’t lose its focus on the titular character, and provides enough of a floating timeline that other stories could potentially be told within its framing (I’m not on the up and up on all of it, but Cap did a lot during World War II…a lot).  It manages to have a well-developed and heartbreaking romance that fits in with the plot and doesn’t draw all the focus away.  Both the main hero and the villain are absolutely perfect and the rest of the cast puts in excellent performances as well, including Atwell and Stan, who are just fantastic in their respective roles.

And the score by Alan Silvestri is just awesome.  I’m not going to lie, there was a reason he was hired to score The Avengers.  Not even counting his other contributions to films throughout the years (Back to the Future ring a bell for anyone?), if Captain America:  The First Avenger’s score was all he had as a demo reel, that’d be enough.

I can’t say anything bad about the film, really. It’s perfect.  If you haven’t seen it, go nuts.  And go see Captain America:  The Winter Soldier when it comes out later this week.  I know I will.

…also, Marvel, if you want to send me money to advertise, I’m not going to say no…per se…

No? Eh...worth a shot...

Captain America:  The First Avenger is now available from Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and is available wherever movies are sold.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Friday, March 21, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die"

Me? Reviewing a game and its sequel (well, expansion pack)?!  Within just a few weeks of one another?  And in order?! …it’s definitely more likely than you think, maybe.  Back in the hands of developer Going Loud Studios, we are introduced to the sequel to their rather hilarious jaunt and satirical slap in the face of the current gaming culture where developers believe it’s okay to sell a half-finished game and sell the other half as “DLCs”.  This time, it’s serious in the sequel – “DLC Quest:  Live Freemium or Die”.

As soon as the game begins, we’re immediately treated to a screen telling us that by purchasing the Game of the Year Edition, we have been granted early access to moving and jumping, audio, animation, and pausing.  Well, isn’t that nice?

The “Death of the Mentor” phase gets dealt with very quickly as we have the premise explained to us – someone or something is attacking villagers at night – before the man who tells us promptly falls right into a pit of spikes and the hero laments over how many have died to teach him game mechanics.  This followed by a graveyard full of in-jokes akin to the Fable games, just to tell you with tone we’re going for right here.  Indeed, it carries over quite well from the last game.

It also plays exactly like the last game as well.  Slash your sword, kill enemies.  Jump (now with new wall jumping) and collect gold coins to buy DLC.  And you go on your epic quest to defeat your enemy.  One who had indeed appear in the first game and you might not have even noticed!

…no, I’m not going to spoil it, it’s really too humorous even if it does lead to an eye rolling Plants vs. Zombies joke…

But then, even after you defeat this great foe, yet another lies before you!  The evil Shopkeeper has shown his true colors and must be defeated!  But how?! WITH DLC, OF COURSE!

Really, all things considered, this game is pretty good.  Just like the original game, and even expanding the satire further into such categories as memes, inane NPC dialogue, and ridiculous and convoluted fetch quests for items.  I really hope this isn’t the last I hear from Going Loud.  Big hopes of success to you guys in the future!  And who knows? I might have to have a look at your other two games after this rather hilarious romp...

DLC Quest:  Live Freemium or Die is now available from Going Loud Studios for Xbox 360, Mac, and PC.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, March 17, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Iron Man 2 (2010)"

So, I have a single question about this movie – why does everyone seem to hate it?

No, I’m being serious.  Because this movie really isn’t that bad.  Are you upset by the fact that RDJ’s screentime is cut into by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who shares all of his scenes with him, or by the Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) who has all of about two scenes that don’t feature the Iron Man himself?

Well, as linking you the “Continuity” music video from It’sJustSomeRandomGuy’s Marvel/DC series would be just a bit too on the nose, I’ll tell you to hush.  Thematically, it makes sense for Iron Man 2 to be introducing more elements of the Marvel movie universe, being that Iron Man was the one to introduce the concept of a joined universe to begin with. But it’s also a personal story to Tony Stark in which we get to see further development of his character from the time of the first film, as well as more insight into his backstory and his relationship with his father.

Also, it’s not an hour and a half hour circle jerk for us to find out that the villain the whole time has been a cheap imposter.  But then that movie is just fine, apparently!

Getting into the story itself, however, we pick up six months after Tony’s big and badass reveal at the end of Iron Man that he is, in fact, the titular man of iron.  Apparently, in Russia, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is none too happy about the sudden appearance of the Armored (future) Avenger on the scene and thus uses his father’s research to create an arc reactor all his own…that he promptly wastes on creating ridiculous energy whips.  Some people want to comparisons to this movie and Rocky IV, because Tony is an American badass going toe to toe with a Russian.  I, however, make this film out to be more like Rocky III than its sequel.  It will become very apparent why.
Russian Clubber, seriously!

The film begins with Tony introducing the Stark Expo – an admittedly gigantic ego trip on his part – with some good old AC/DC and a line of chorus girls done up in Iron Man-esque outfits…which kind of jarring and almost offensive for me.  The arc reactor in particular being a symbol of both Tony’s triumph over the terrorists of the Five Rings, but also the physical manifestation of who he is and what he has become.  It, in its own way, is what makes Tony able to follow the dying words of Dr. Yinsen from the first film.

To commercialize such a thing would cheapen it and take away from what made it so special and precious in the first place…unless you’re Tony Stark, apparently.  Then it’s completely excusable and even hilarious.

…and to give it credit, at least it’s more respectful than, say, chucking it into the ocean out of hand.  That would be just stupid…

But Tony makes a short, grandiose speech about how no one in the world has been able to take him on ever since he first donned the suit.  On the flip side of that, however, we find that the palladium core of his Arc Reactor is poisoning his body.  Because of this, even as he lives, he dies.  So, Tony starts becoming more reckless, putting him at odds with both his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). We also get another nemesis brought into the film in the form of Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

After a battle in Italy, Hammer “acquires” Vanko from captivity and proceeds to get screwed over by being small potatoes compared to the actual villain of the piece.  On a side note, however, Rockwell plays the annoying twit pretty well and even has some genuinely funny moments.  He’s in there for comic relief and it shows, but the movie also doesn’t try to make him out to be anything else.  Like if they spent an hour and a half to just have him be the villain and have Vanko be nothing more than a comic relief puppet, even those they made no indication whatsoever that that was the case and, in fact, led you away from thinking that in such a way that would make the reveal even stupider.  But, then, Marvel would never do anything that monumentally stupid, would they? I don’t think so…

But yes, along with needing a solution to the palladium core burning his life away, Tony must contend with the most dangerous threat he has ever well as his own inner demons...sort of.

Once again, RDJ is back and he is really good.  Saying that RDJ is an awesome Tony Stark by this point is a bit like pointing out the great arcane secret that the sky is blue, so let’s move on.

The rest of the cast bring in passable if not good performances, including Don Cheadle taking over for Terrance Howard as Rhodey.  He’s alright, and I really don’t get too much difference between his performance and his predecessor’s.  On a somewhat related note, Rhodey takes to using the War Machine armor a bit too easily for my liking, seeing as it took Tony an entire film to get all the kinks worked out of his own suit.  However, it’s something I can look past.

And, of course, there’s the mention of Scarlett Johansson being in this film.  No complaints here.

No, honestly, I tried.  Can’t find anything wrong with this at all.  Not a thing.  It’s beautiful, wondrous, and I look forward to the Black Widow solo film.  Moving on…
Good golly, Miss Molly, er...Romanoff...

Really, beyond RDJ’s screen time being cut into, I really don’t get the problems people have with this film.  I could go on about the aforementioned Rhodey taking to the suit too easily…but I won’t.  I could go on about how Justin Hammer, a sinister and darker villain in the comics, has rings run around him by Whiplash of all people and is turned into comic relief…but I won’t.  I could go on about how it was admittedly a giant tease for The Avengers…but I won’t.

In the end, there’s a hero…a decent villain…and a satisfying conclusion that is but a part of the whole that lead into one of the greatest films of all time.

Now, being that the movie reviews are done every two weeks instead of every week, I was going to talk about Thor for the next edition of Reel Thoughts.  However, seeing as a particular movie is due to come out the week that that review will come up, I think it would be pertinent to talk about another film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one that came out as the last of the set to precede The Avengers and end Phase One.  And I can sum it up in three simple words:

Iron Man 2 is now available from Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and is available wherever movies are sold.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

...oh, you want post credits? Fine.  Looking forward to Cap 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy.  And Avengers 2, obviously.  Still waiting on the Doctor Strange announcement, though...

...yeah, that's all I want.  Go.  Shoo.

Friday, March 14, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Black Tiger"

...not remotely how I'd describe it...
Ah, the arcades! Nothing in the world like them! I say that being someone who was never really a party to the rather archaic thing.  Arcades were around in a time when I was but a proto-Madcap and I never really experienced the pain and suffering of having to put in yet another quarter in order to play the game I found myself situated at as I slugged my way through level upon level to reach the ending.  But, in order to reach back and feel nostalgia for a time that I wasn’t actually around for, I picked up an offering from Capcom on the Xbox Live Arcade known as the Capcom Arcade Cabinet, and a particular game stuck out at me from the motley.  A game with a barbarian wielding a shield and a ball and chain and the title of “Black Tiger”.

Upon some research, I found this offering from Capcom to original have been titled “Black Dragon” in Japan.  So, my logical first question is…well, why?  Did the localization team feel that they would be insensitive to dragons if the title remained?  This really wouldn’t be an issue to any great extent – just look at titles like Street Fighter 2010 – but it has a problem in its name.  There are no Tigers in it, black or otherwise, they just aren’t there.  You see goblins, demons, mummies, witches, even dragons…but no tigers. Not even anything even tiger-esque, which makes the name change all the more confusing.
How did Slifer the Sky Dragon get here? ...oh, right, Japan...

But as for the game itself, what’s the plot? Well, not a lot, actually.  It’s a fairly standard RPG plot that basically translates (in terrible Engrish) to “monsters bad, you kill!” and kill you do as the aforementioned Barbarian with a Kunai with Chain and a shield.  All you’re given in your epic quest is a suit of armor (which I’m pretty sure should negate the Barbarian’s Fast Movement ability…oh, wrong game), the rip-off of Vampire Killer, and the ability to jump and move about throughout levels of platforming and monsters to reach an end boss and repeat the process until you win.

The story?

“Long Long ago, three dragons descended from the skies above with a roll of thunder and destroyed a kingdom into darkness.

From lengthy suffering and darkness of the kingdom came one brave fighter.”

…yeah, no.  That’s it.  In all that glorious Engrish.

Punch a dragon in the face? DON'T MIND IF I DO!!!
Along the way, the barbarian hero saves dwarves from stone who either given him an item, open up a shop for him, or offer up some insultingly obvious advice in plain Engrish.  Using a system of gold coins known as zenny, the barbarian can purchase chains that fire more projectiles and stretch out longer (no innuendo here, stop looking) as well as armor that looks progressively more and more shiny. 

Really, there’s not a lot to this one.  It’s one of the most brain dead games you’d ever play.  It’s arcade roots shine through, however, in the difficulty.  First off, there’s a time limit.  I understand that from an arcade perspective, but unfortunately this is a console port and I have it on good authority that it hasn’t been 1987 for a solid twenty-six years.  This could have been taken out and it would have taken away from nothing, though I do give it credit to at least provide the timer for it.  Not that you’ll never actually need it, the earlier levels are ridiculously short and easy to get through while finding the hidden items in each level.

No, where the difficulty shines through is in the enemy places.  Now, I wasn’t there for it, but back in the day games were done this way in arcades in order to steal as many quarters as they could possibly milk out of players.  You’re going to die.  A lot.  Sometimes even unintentionally.  The game is even downright unfair with some of its enemies, who take way more hits than they rightly should before being taken down (not counting the boss monsters, obviously) and its actually rather hard to tell that you’ve hit them.  On the other hand, the player will have bright sparks of electricity arcing around them as they presumably lose piece after piece of armor Ghosts ‘n Goblins-style before melodramatically lifting into the air and falling back upon death.

The jumps, as well, can be an absolute nightmare.  The barbarian (who, for the sake of convenience I’m going to call “Bob”) jumps in a weird arc even when wearing no armor that results in occasionally overshooting or undershooting your goal.  This isn’t often a problem, save for the few levels where instant-kill death traps wait below in the form of lava or spikes.  Luckily, Bob doesn’t have to deal with a lot of these, though later on fragmented hand holds come into play that force him to leap around to get to a destination…which is not always made easy thanks to the placement of enemies.
"And in time, Bob became King by his own hand..."

I’m not going to beat around the bush, this game isn’t bad but you’re going to get tired of it very, very fast.  I know for a fact that I did.  The influences of it are very obvious to see given the time period it came out – in particular Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins – but it doesn’t really have much to stand out on its own.  A decent hack and slash platformer, but merely a hack and slash platformer nonetheless.  Even with the weird name change, that’s all there is.

Black Tiger is now available from Capcom.

The Capcom Arcade Cabinet is available for download from Xbox Live, the Playstation Network, and PC.

This review is based on the Xbox Live downloaded version.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, March 7, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Dead Space 3"

I knew this game wasn’t going to be good going in.  How did I know? Well, mostly because it had been out for months before I had ever even gotten my hands on it and the general conscience that I could get from my friends and fellow gamers was that it was even further away from the original horror concept of the first Dead Space had been.  And I liked Dead Space 2, I liked it a lot.  Sure, it took the horror idea and basically turned it into even more of what the typical Hollywood movie thinks of horror films nowadays – that is to say, a trip through jump scare central and “Dear God, there’s no way that could have that much blood!” Junction – but with the juxtaposition of having enough heavy ordinance to level a small moon to make it actually kind of fun.

Though it’s not a perfect comparison, I take the Dead Space series much like this:  Dead Space was much like Evil Dead, not intentionally funny, but very dark in tone.  Dead Space 2 is more like Evil Dead 2, more comedic, and really over the top.  Dead Space 3, however, is not the perfect Bruce Campbell vs. The Army of Darkness that completes the trifecta, and I am not amused. Not remotely amused.   And seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? All these critics giving this game positive reviews, some of them claiming that it’s “rife with options and flexibility” and that it’s “a thrilling and worthwhile sequel”.

No! No, it isn’t! It’s none of those things!

We join Isaac Clarke again sometime after the events of Dead Space 2, where he has apparently taken to locking himself in an apartment and being depressed.  At least until he’s dragged out by two soldiers of the Earth Defense Force, who need his help to find Ellie – the female love interest character from Dead Space 2 – after she’s gone missing following an expedition to find the original source of all the Markers that are turning people into crazy abominations against God.
Yay...the jetpack's back...I wish I cared...

Okay, one:  It’s nice to see that Isaac is over Nicole, and two:  way to rip off Halo 3, guys.

But the game then plays out with Isaac heading out to a planet where, many years ago, some really bad stuff involving EarthGov and the Unitologists happened.  Ellie is fine, as are a team of NPCs that I assume we’re supposed to care about, but we really aren’t given the time or reason to.  No one is a bigger offender than John Carver, an actual space marine who hasn’t been in the series before and wasn’t really needed.  While I’m glad that they’ve dropped the multi-player fiasco that largely undermined 2, the drop in-drop out co-op isn’t really that much better, though luckily you can play through the game without it.  This does mean that certain missions are restricted from you, however, which is a massive pain and irritation.

And, of course, there don’t seem to be any missions done strictly for single player because, y’know, that would just be insane!

As far as mechanics go, it’s pretty much still what we’ve come to expect from Dead Space games before, except now for the fact that Isaac can crouch.  So, cover-based shooting is possible.  Oh, EA, such innovation and splendor from you, don’t ever change!  Really, I do not in any way understand why the game has been taken in the route of a first person shooter.  Every gun using the same kind of ammo, the only real tactic anymore being to shoot mercilessly, or use a Stasis blast and then shoot mercilessly in some of the hairier spots.

Oh, and cover based shooting.  Which is NEVER "appropriate" or "natural", regardless of what the development team might say.

It's a dead man's par-oh, fuck it, this game isn't worth the joke...
Speaking of the guns, Dead Space 3 drops the purchasing mechanic of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 for a crafting table in order to make new guns.  This is all well and good in both the fact that it gets rid of one of my main problems with the previous games – namely why Isaac doesn’t just override the kiosks to give himself whatever he wants without wasting credits – and that it allows us to get a little closer to the character of Isaac Clarke, the engineer.  However, this is really rather time consuming and ultimately pointless when I was able to get through three-fourths of the game just with a plasma cutter.  Also, a big part of the new mechanic is the use of resources, where certain resources are required to craft certain weapons and items for use.

Everyone, quick quiz:  You have two seconds to name any game in which resource collection isn’t a time consuming bunch of B.S.  Time’s up! Nevertheless, some of the weapons (once made) are nice and do allow a little bit of variety in just how you shoot mercilessly, if only on an aesthetic basis.

My problems with this game, ironically, come with three glaring issues in the plot.  First, the lack of information.  A lot of data comes by through text logs, which really isn’t a good way to convey important background details.  A prime example being Ellie’s eye - something that was one of the more jarring moments of Dead Space 2 - suddenly being returned in this game, having been replaced between games.  If I hadn’t found the text log in Isaac’s apartment that explained that, I would have never known about that and thus been really confused when Ellie was revealed and suddenly had two eyes again.

Or the details of Isaac and Ellie’s relationship, something that apparently happened in the weeks (months? Years?) between Dead Space 2 and apparently had enough time for it to end and for Ellie to hook up with the galaxy’s biggest douchebag.  Ironically, this was apparently because Isaac was unable to let go of the past – ironic considering that letting go of his past was a major theme in Dead Space 2, as well as Ellie being the one looking for the origin world of the Markers rather than Isaac.

When the team finally does meet back up with Ellie and goes to the planet in question, they have a hard time getting there in a sequence where the player is forced to take control of the dropship and pilot it down a simulated corridor whilst either dodging or blasting their way through bits of debris, with the general idea being that it was nearly impossible to reach the planet’s surface without the corridor in question.  This, of course, begs the question as to how the Unitologists managed to not only follow them to the planet, but get so many people through to fight Isaac.

That’s right, you’re not just fighting Lovecraft’s party guests but actual human soldiers that have come to the planet of Tau Volantis.  I shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s wrong.
...y'know, it reminds me of something...can't THINK of what...

But yes, this game has become more than just distanced from the original horror concept – it’s become a shooter game.  And while that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing in any other circumstance, it’s destroyed for me by being not remotely what it was to begin with.  And not in a good way.  While it wasn’t a perfect metaphor, Dead Space was much like Evil Dead and that it was at least trying to be scary, and it succeeded in a few places (for me, at least).  This game?  Despite claims to the contrary by the development team about not toning down or getting rid of the scary elements, that’s what they’ve done.  Even Dead Space 2 had some semblances of horror.  This game? Not at all.

So, really, besides the artificial trappings, it’s a watered down shooter.  And if you’re into that, sure, go nuts. And no, I don't care about the alien revelation or the giant freaking moons, I’m not overly impressed.  Unless Dead Space 4 or whatever happens to follow this game starts with Isaac waking up in the distant future claiming that he’s slept too long, don’t expect me to get it.  Because it won’t be happening.

Dead Space 3 is now available from Visceral Games and Electronic Arts for Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, and Playstation 3.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Monday, March 3, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Iron Man (2008)"

Iron Man doesn’t seem like that far-fetched of a choice for a review, you know.  I’ve reviewed movie-based video games and superhero games before.  And I’ve been a fan of the likes of Spider-Man and many other others of the Marvel stable of comics ever since I was able to focus my eyes on piece of comic paper or a television screen (I did grow up watching the 90s Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons, after all).  Iron Man, though…well, he guest spotted a few times in the Spider-Man cartoon, which is where I originally got to know him.  And, of course, everyone knows the origin story of Tony Stark from the comics.

Tony Stark - a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist – is accosted by terrorists while on a routine demonstration for the United States military in Vietnam and almost dies and is saved only by the use of transistors!

In the film version, we see some serious updates for the modern era. Vietnam becomes Afghanistan, transistors become the Arc Reactor, and a scene is shot that forces every movie since to have a post-credits scene and make movie ushers sob quietly in the corner.

And y’know what? It was a big hit.  It was the highest grossing film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe pre-Avengers, and it definitely deserves to be.  It’s acted well, written well, produced well and it brings to life a character that nobody expected would be brought to the screen all that well.  Not only did the awesome team behind this do it well, they nailed it, and so I think it’s the best place to take a good, hard look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe…

…yes, I will be covering other films as I see reason to either ignore them or fit them in.

But, to the point, Iron Man.  A film I love about a hero that I’m not particularly fond of.  However, the fact is that Robert Downey, Jr. is absolutely beyond amazing as Tony Stark.  If there has ever been a better example of perfect casting in the history of cinematic adaptations, I don’t know what it is.  He takes the journey from egocentric, hedonistic, and carefree playboy to a responsible, more focused individual who understands the consequences of his actions (or, indeed, his inactions) and the weight behind them in order to become a hero.

…which is why when it gets completely derailed in the first five minutes of Iron Man 2, I get a little peeved, but that’s for next time…

The whole time, Downey’s Stark maintains a level of snark and witty repertoire with literally everyone in the film that rarely stops and he’s really a fundamental part of what made this film an epic summer blockbuster as well as being the excellent film that it is.

The second part of the main trio for this film is the lovely Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tony’s personal assistant who pretty much has to watch over Tony like the rich, crazed man child that he is (and he is).  Paltrow saw the character as “very smart, levelheaded, and grounded” and that very much shows in her performance at her exasperation over Tony’s more outlandish and wild behaviors, and even after Tony goes full on into heroics.  However, this never belies the undercurrent of care and affection she has for her employer.  Pepper, unlike many a comic book movie love interest, does actually assist Tony quite a bit in his endeavors instead of simply being someone who requires rescuing all the time.

Someone call the Raimi-verse Mary Jane and tell her this is how you do it.

Rounding out the main power trio is James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the United States Air Force’s liaison to Stark Industries and Tony’s best friend.  Like Pepper, Rhodey is very much a straight man to bounce off of Tony’s crazy antics and he does very adequately in that regard without a doubt, having the structured and orderly demeanor of an officer of the United States military in order to counter Tony’s far more chaotic attitude.

And, of course, there is no great hero without a great villain – in this case one Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), old friend of Howard Stark’s and part friend/part father figure to Tony, which makes his betrayal all the more painful to Tony.  And Jeff Bridges plays a great villain here, doing the corrupt businessman type to a tee.  And, of course, he has the probably my favorite line from any of the MCU movies that have come out so far.

And then, the plot itself.  It’s an origin story, where we see Tony Stark transition from carefree playboy to superhero.  It’s believable, awesomely paced and awesomely done.  We see it all in Downey’s performance as he manages to run the gamut without losing sight of the character he’s portraying.  Despite it being an origin story, it doesn’t have the run down feel of Spider-Man or Batman in that we’ve seen it a thousand times.  Like many of Marvel’s mainstays, it’s not like Iron Man’s origin is some archaic secret lost to time, but this is the first time it is brought to the screen and it’s done masterfully well.  If I have only one gripe about this film, literally just one, it’s Iron Monger. 

While Stane is an active presence throughout the film, his turn as Iron Monger is depressingly short and the final battle between the two feels very rushed as we sail through it in the last ten minutes of the film.

Director Jon Favreau wanted to ground the film in realism as much as possible, and it definitely shows with Tony’s experimentation with his first suit upon returning from Afghanistan in order to get it in working order, but this goes even beyond that to the production as well.  Favreau wanted as little CGI as possible, trying to do almost everything with practical effects.  And he very nearly succeeded entirely, but ILM did come in to do a few scenes and Favreau had to agree after seeing their more recent previous work.

Seriously, this movie is good.  If you’re one of the three people on the face of the Earth who hasn’t seen it, go and watch it.

Yes, now.

Right now.

...why are you still reading this? GO!

Iron Man is owned by Marvel, the film produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, and is available wherever movies are sold.

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