I watched Iron Man yesterday and it rocks! I particularly liked that the writers took their time in developing Stark's character and back story -- like the Yinsen story arc -- before jumping into the action, which was also nicely done. In fact, what made the movie special was that it was much more of an action-drama (the birth of a superhero) than just a pure action movie (a superhero goes around kicking ass). The dialogue, acting, and smatterings of humour were all really good too.
Of course it was interesting to hear Raza, one of the main bad buys, speaking Urdu. The last time we had a cool but seriously evil bald bad guy that spoke a language from this region was when Amrish Puri played Mola Ram in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- though, of course, he spoke Hindi and not Urdu.
Faran Tahir (who is of Pakistani origin, by the way) also played Raza a little less one-dimensionally than I was expecting, which was nice. That said, Raza was very much a mix between Puri's Mola Ram and Crispin Glover's Creepy Thin Man from the Charlie's Angels franchise: "menacing" to the point of being almost funny, but still reasonably believable (like the bad guys from xXx, for example). [See update below]
Oh, and all US patriotism aside -- this is an American superhero movie about a military weapons manufacturer, after all -- it was interesting how they made the main bunch of over-the-top bad guys a reasonably international group of weapons traders who spoke Urdu, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, and a whole bunch of other languages. All the cool terrorists are either Middle Eastern, Central European, or Scandinavian these days. Gone are the days of the evil Japanese, Vietnamese, Germans, and Russians...though the ultimate bad guy is still, of course, British.
Also, to keep up with the times, they moved the entire Iron Man story from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Even Yinsen (originally Ho Yinsen) had his back-story moved from "communist Vietnam" to "terrorist Afghanistan". I guess that means the Bond franchise now has dibs on European bad guys; the Spider-Man, X-Men, and Batman franchises have dibs on American bad guys; the Transformers and Superman franchises have dibs on outer-space bad guys; and the Bourne franchise has dibs on the CIA and other intelligence agencies as bad guys. Have I missed any?
Anyway, I don't have much more to say about the movie itself -- a lot of others have already said pretty much everything I wanted to say (and have probably said it better) -- so I'll just link to some good reviews, instead:
- The Bad Astronomer recommends you go watch it.
- Salon's Stephanie Zacharek loves what Downey Jr. brought to the role and appreciated the fact that the writers kept the focus on the characters and not the action.
- A.O. Scott from the New York Times says that this is "a superhero movie that's good in unusual ways".
All in all, it's an excellent movie that I would highly recommend.
"The thing I loved about playing Raza was the approach. It's so easy in today’s reality, when you have a movie set somewhere in the Middle East or Afghanistan, to have everything become about the current terrorism in those nations. However, it wasn't about that. It was about a different ideology. My group of people, my minions and I, are the real soldiers of fortune. We use whatever we can to get the power. It wasn't about religion, but we'd use religion, corporate espionage -- whatever we needed to get ahead. We have no alliance to anyone. We have our own ideology: profit, power, prestige -- it brings everything to an honest level. People do a lot of things under the guise of ideologies, but it's all about power in the end."
Awesome. Now I'm really looking forward to seeing Tahir in the upcoming Star Trek movie.