Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They say that the best weapon is the one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.

No 406 - Iron Man
Director - John Favreau

Let us begin with the clear cold facts. Robert Downey Jr is perfect as Tony Stark. He is a great character, with superb dialogue and he manages to get cracking performances from the cast around him.
The film zips along and the dialogue crackles and the whole thing leaves me with a massive smile on my face. This is Downey Jr at his most wise ass and his most ego - inflated.

Look at him, he's one second away from declaring himself the Messiah. And that's why he's so fun to watch. He is a hard drinking, hard partying, beast of a man. Who has come from a world where he isn't held responsible for anything he does.

If I could do anything, as a job, I would opt to be a billionaire playboy. So Stark makes excellent viewing.
Which brings us to the first major problem with this Iron Man film. Large chunks of the film (though not as large as the sequel) have Robert Downey Jr replaced with a clinking clunking piece of CGI. This is the rare superhero film, where the superhero is infinitely more dull than the hidden identity.

Thankfully, this film is the first one - so, as an origin story we get a lot of Stark. From his initial, terribly arrogant, terribly fab, introduction in the Middle East - to his LOLtastic shaky video tests of his Iron Man gear.
But we also get the film's second massive flaw. The film's tone is all over the place. Stark is hilarious, and the Iron Man tone is campy and fun and flamboyant, as is Marvel's wont (whilst both films deal with Billionaire playboys using ridiculous gadgets to counter their lack of powers, this is as far from Nolan's Batman as you can possibly get whilst in the same genre) - however, there are some really dark elements.
The film's pre-title sequence brilliantly (and edgily) introduces Stark as a smooth talking bastard and then sees him kidnapped by anonymous Middle Eastern terrorists. It is a shock ending to the scene and it works brilliantly, Stark's happy world is quickly shattered. It is not an easy trick to pull off. And we see this because the film fails to pull it off ever again. The scenes of torture, massacre and corruption jar massively with the superhero theatrics and tech fetishism which happens throughout the rest of the film.
In one sequence we watch families get ripped apart and roadside executions, which ends with some 'oooh ah' theatrics and a bit of 'cool guys don't look at explosions'

And while I'm a fan of both edgy drama and shameless popcorn entertainment, I don't think they sit that well together in the same film. Let alone the same scene.

My final point is the burden of most Superhero origin films - the villain. The film is focusing so much on the origin, that the villain feels like an after thought. In Iron Man's defence, this is not really the case. Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane is a fabulous corrupt business man. He has some great scenes where he seems to be enjoying chewing the scenery with malice and intent. What we had was the potential for an interesting film about redemption. Stark discovers the underhand dealings of his company and fights against his corrupt CEO whilst using the Iron Man equipment to right the wrongs which are being acted out in his name, with his weaponry.

That would have controversially pushed Iron man into a side plot, but would have allowed two amazing actors to spar off one another (and every scene Downey Jr shares with Bridges is a delight) instead of replacing them with boring CGI robots.

My final points
  • Jarvis is amazing! If I was programming an omnipresent computer butler - I would definitely make him camp and English (not saying that Bettany is particularly camp... but Jarvis sure the hell is).
  • SHIELD and Agent Coulson are in this film just the right amount (ie - hardly at all)
  • The Hugh Heffner joke is the best Stan Lee cameo yet.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow's performance (as the insanely named Pepper Potts) is also brilliant but didn't fit into the general ranting of this blog.