Cinema Thoughts

Iron Man should be a huge hit

Courtesy of Marvel / ParamountI saw Iron Man last night and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t open really big this weekend.

If you aren’t familiar with the character, it is one of the few remaining Marvel heroes who hasn’t made it to the big screen in the last decade.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor who is kidnapped in Afghanistan, where he builds a high-tech suit of armor to escape.

When he returns to the US he decides to change his cynical arms-dealing ways and protect the world as Iron Man.

Various elements of the film click into place:

  • The pace is brisk and despite being an origin story, it doesn’t get too bogged down in a sluggish plot.
  • Director Jon Favreau has gone for a nice mix of humour and action – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite the terrorist and arms dealing elements.
  • Robert Downey Jnr demonstrates what an engaging presence he can be in the lead role, with bursts of cocky wit and a nice strain of self-deprecating humour.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow plays a more substantial supporting character than is usual for these kind of films.
  • The mix of CGI and live action is expertly done – Stan Winston’s design of the Iron Man suit, the visual effects of him in action and the sound editing are all award worthy.
  • The action sequences are impressive, particularly the first two big set pieces.

There are a couple of elements that don’t quite come off, notably the climax which is a little too standard given what has gone before it, but overall this is slick and smart summer blockbuster.

Given the effective marketing campaign and quality of the finished film I would be suprised if this didn’t open to about $80 million in the US this weekend.

Some are predicting it could be as high as $100 million, but it would have to do extremely well to reach that figure over the 3 day weekend.

That said, tracking and awareness for this film is reportedly huge and I think word of mouth from those who see it on the Thursday preview screenings and Friday night showings will convince others to check it out.

One major fly in the ointment for Paramount and Marvel is the release today of Grand Theft Auto 4 – which is set to be one of the biggest selling computer games of all time.

The big worry for Iron Man’s box office is that the key demographic for the film (young males) will be at home on their consoles all weekend.

It is clearly a concern – and may lead to studios watching computer game release schedules more closely in future – but I actually think that demo is going to want to see Iron Man as well.

There is also a hi-tech cool factor to the film that should play well to both a computer savvy audience and the wider public.

Geeks may note that Stark multi-tasks on Dell and Apple workstations when creating his suit, although the operating system is one of those magical movie creations that does anything it is asked of.

Less tech-savvy audience members are still going to like the action, SFX and his funny robot assistants.

Whatever happens, Marvel and Paramount should have a huge franchise on their hands.

> Official site for Iron Man
> Reviews for Iron Man at Metacritic
> Find out more about the Iron Man character at Wikipedia
> /Film and Deadline Hollywood Daily on whether or not Grand Theft Auto 4 will affect Iron Man’s box office
> Anne Thompson interviews Jon Favreau about the film in Variety


Edward Norton responds to bad Hulk buzz

For weeks now there has been a lot of negative buzz surrounding the new film version of The Incredible Hulk, which stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner.

A few days ago the New York Times reported that:

Mr. Norton and Marvel, which has the right of final approval on the film, have sparred in recent weeks over trims, among other issues, said studio executives involved, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Norton โ€” who was hired to rewrite the script along with playing the lead โ€” has made it clear he wonโ€™t cooperate with publicity plans if heโ€™s not happy with the final product, these people said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Norton said he had no comment. Mr. Maisel brushed off the friction as par for the course.

But now Norton has responded with a statement to Entertainment Weekly:

“Like so many people I’ve loved the story of The Hulk since I was a kid, so it was thrilling when Marvel asked me to write and help produce an altogether new screen incarnation, as well as play Bruce Banner.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics and always loved the mythic dimension and contemporary themes in the stories, and Iโ€™m proud of the script I wrote.

In every phase of production, including the editing, working with Louis Leterrier has been wonderful…I’ve never had a better partner, and the collaboration with all the rest of the creative team has been terrific.

Every good movie gets forged through collaboration, and different ideas among people who are all committed and respect the validity of each other’s opinions is the heart of filmmaking.

Regrettably, our healthy process, which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a ‘dispute,’ seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen.

It has always been my firm conviction that films should speak for themselves and that knowing too much about how they are made diminishes the magic of watching them.

All of us believe The Incredible Hulk will excite old fans and create new ones and be a huge hit…our focus has always been to deliver the Hulk that people have been waiting for and keep the worldwide love affair with the big green guy going strong.”

All this chatter about the film doesn’t bode well butย it goes without saying that no-one should judge it until actually seeing the finished cut.

But the reality is that we now live in an age where summer blockbusters depend on long lead buzz (e.g. Superbowl spots, early footage) and making and releasing a high profile film like this can’t really be done quietly.

The other problem is that The Hulk is possibly the hardest Marvel character to get right. If you are being faithful to the comics you have to make him a large creature, but that doesn’t always translate well to the screen.

The 2003 version never really grappled with this problem. Although it had some good ideas (e.g. the split screen comic effects and the darker tone) it didn’t make Bruce Banner and the Hulk seem part of the same being.

Watching the trailer for this new film, it is a little worrying that they appear to have created a slightly darker version of the last Hulk. Plus, it also seems like Abomination (his nemesis in the film) is a bit too similar.

Maybe Universal should have waited a few more years (like Warner Bros did with the Batman franchise) before someone had a genuinely original way of rebooting the character.

But we shall see.

> Trailer for The Incredible Hulk
> Find out more about the Hulk character at WIkipedia