I feel vindicated by the revelation that Iron Man went into production without a shooting script, if only because now I know the reason Robert Downey Jr. had so few quality lines is that he and director Jon Favreau were making up the dialogue as they went along. This approach works when you can endlessly re-shoot uninspired or botched takes on the cheap, i.e. when you’re not filming a $200 million film on someone else’s dime. Favreau delivered all that could be expected working under such constraints: a serviceable plot that relies heavily on the many charms of its actors and the explosiveness of its explosions.
And I, in turn, feel vindicated by his post. But first, I must confess, I didn’t see all of Iron Man. I really wanted to, as I’d heard from many friends that it was an improbably good comic book adaptation. Plus, Robert Downey, Jr. is eminently watchable.
Or so I thought. I managed to get through the first 25 minutes on the sheer strength of Downey’s charisma, and I kept waiting for him to deliver a power line or start cracking wise. But when the script didn’t deliver, I found myself going through my RSS reader, watching with one eye. Eventually I abandoned the film to watch Gossip Girl (Chuck Bass’s eyebrows beat lame dialogue and explosions any day).
Iron Man was not good. As I said to a coworker the next day, it was essentially a lot of scenes of Downey building stuff, lots of fire, and way too much Paltrow, strung together with guitar-heavy music. There was no there, there — not even anything to disbelieve enough to warrant suspension.
What I do believe is that there’s some kind of magic in movie theatres, and popcorn and surround sound can turn a not-good film into a great experience. I suspect my dislike of Iron Man would have been different had I seen it in the theatre. Dark Knight is a similar film that I did see in the theatre. Aside from the bizarreness of seeing Heath Ledger in a new role after his death, the film itself was disconcerting, and, as SEK says, lacked any sort of coherent ideology. Honestly, I disliked it, but it’s clearly a good film, and a much better film than Iron Man. However, if I’d seen the latter on the big screen, I don’t know if I’d still be sure of that.