Iron Man

Dir: Jon Favreau, 2008

So it turns out there is now a trailer for Iron Man II, due in Summer 2010. Here it is! Exciting innit. The Wrestler’s in it and everything. Given how wall-hurlingly thrilling the trailer was, while watching it I temporarily forgot one small detail: I hadn’t seen the original!

So I watched the original this avo.

And eeeh. I’ve heard people say it’s variously the best Marvel film ever, the best comic book film ever, better than The Dark Knight (which the second point would kinda imply, but give me a break. I’ve just got back from holiday) etc. Stakes, as De La Soul would say, was high. Have to admit before I go any further that I was a tad sceptical, largely due to aforementioned hype. I know it goes against intellectual thinking, but I really liked The Dark Knight. Saw it at IMAX and the lot. Anyway, Downey and Favreau are a decent combination, so why not. Swingers was great, for a film that wasn’t really about anything.

Iron Man though. Good film, I have to admit. And it actually gave me some food for thought. But for now, let’s look at the comic book/action film stuff. I’m not in any way a veteran of the Iron Man comics (I did like the cartoon a lot though. Waiting for Hypnotia to feature in IM III), so I don’t know how true-to-print the origin story was. Probably not very, as this one involved an oh-so zeitgeist-capturing Middle Eastern terrrst organisation being all hard to pin down, releasing videos of hostages and hunkering down in complex cave systems. Sadly no Bin Laden beards, but I suppose that would have been too on the nose. Or chin. Sorry. Downey Jr. was charming and charismatic as the titular Man, and put over the peril of the various situations in which he found himself. The bloke who saved his life in the caves was a bit of a sad loss, but he was only a plot device anyway. And besides, he looked vaguely Middle Eastern so was obviously more concerned about the afterlife than the present life. Obviously.

This actually got me to thinking. Once Stark becomes Iron Man (and with no Ghostface Killah on the soundtrack, to my memory, and my disappointment), he’s shook at the knowledge of his company’s weapons being used on innocents, and heads over to a fictional war-torn city to intervene. A young family is in hysteric tears as their father/husband is about to be executed by the no-goodniks. Just in time, Iron Man makes the save, annihilating the terrorists and saving all innocents. He goes about it in massively cathartic style, and it’s actually a lovely scene. Made me wish there was someone to intervene in such a way in numerous countries today. But then, in the context of this film, that wouldn’t happen. He’d be fine for knacking your Talibans, Basij and various independent organisations, but the most damage this decade has been meted out by the war machine (hmmm) that was brought into being by the Western world. And Tony Stark, who the film tells us over and over again is a supermassive patriot, would not be all that likely to raise a finger to stop the kind of astonishing violence that razed Kabul and Baghdad. Wonder where he’d stand on the Israeli use of white phosphorus on Palestinian civilians at the start of this year. Maybe the sequel will answer questions like this. Right?

Anyway, once Stark becomes Iron Man, it turns out the enemy was within, all along! Yes, cuddly Jeff Bridges – The Dude, Duder, El Duderino – shaved his head, grew a big grey beard and went nasty. He actually makes for a decent villain, mainly because he’s largely unrecognisable. He cons the terrorists a little too easily for my liking, but he presents a decent threat. He’s intelligent enough to cause massive issues for our hero, but not so clever that Stark can’t outsmart him. Plus, he professionally delivers the two key arch-enemy speeches: the exposition one, wherein he calmly lets everyone know his motivations for everything ever, while the hero is otherwise incapacitated (aural paralysis pen-drive thing, in this case); and the grand finale ‘how ironic! You sought to [INSERT NOBLE INTENTION], when really you [UNWITTINGLY HELPED THE VILLAIN]’ monologue.

As a whole it was fine, though far from the best anything. Terrence Howard was perfunctory as Rhodes, though his financial demand-based absence in the sequel shouldn’t be anything to shed tears over. The fight between Iron Man and Mecha Dude was entertaining… and visually clear. In fact, it was pretty much everything the messy Transformers fights were not. You could follow the action, differentiate the combatants and everything! Tell me about it. I was planning on writing up Transformers 2 (‘Revenge of the Fallen’ being one of the lamer subtitles in the history of recorded nomenclature), but the less said about that mockery of cinema the better, really. Michael Bay, please die. Actually, that’s a tad harsh. He has done one thing of note in the last few years… But back to the matter at hand. The SHIELD reveal was nice, and got me a little excited, but not as excited as the post-credits Samuel L. Jackson cameo. That was schmart, and a satisfying slap in the face to those dimwits who leave cinemas as soon as the credits start to roll. Paltrow was her usual annoying self, but she didn’t bring the film down to any great degree. We got ‘Iron Man’ the song. The flying sensation, and RDJ’s reaction to it, were great and very satisfying. It didn’t go on too long. All in all a good film, and I look forward to the sequel.

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