16 August 2008

Iron Man

As a disclaimer, I watched this movie on a trans-atlantic flight, which means that it was in just about the least desirable conditions imaginable; in an uncomfortable seat, on a tiny screen, in a half-awake state and as an added bonus, I was decidedly ill from the horrific food that United Airlines provided me with. Also, a warning, spoilers ahead.

Robert Downey Jr was great. He played it convincingly and really quite well, funny, sympathetic, and generally enjoyable to watch. The movie did a good job neogitated his conversion from good-time guy to heartfelt humanitarian, which was clever, because it sort of allowed it to have the best of both worlds in terms of action heroes. Gwyneth Paltrow was dull as dishwater and not particularly credible, hampered partly by the fact that her character was wholly uninteresting and not particularly believable, seeing as she was meant to be simultaneously somewhat mousy, timid and neurotic but also highly efficient. Not to mention, there was something kind of obnoxious to me about the whole secretary-who-turns-out-to-be-totally-hot thing, but that's probably because I was feeling grouchy anyhow. Though any way you look at it, the love story between them was tangential and a waste of my time. Starting with the operation, continuing with the dance at the banquet, god who cares, it was all stupid. 

Moving on to other annoying aspects of the film, I'm pre-disposed to be irritated by Afghani villains and stock imagery of villages torn by violence. Though I did appreciate the fact that the villains spoke 5 languages in contrast to the hero's one. The wholly dispensable assistant who obligingly help Starks construct an escape and then martyrs himself pissed me off, but again, I was grouchy.

I will readily admit that the Iron Man suit was sweet as hell, and the special effects were awesome. Gratuitously smashing sports cars is generally charming as well. And Iron Man didn't look nearly so ridiculous soaring through the sky as one might expect.

No, what I found weird about the movie was its puzzling vigilante message and moral dilemma. So we've got Tony Starks is this genius who develops technology, right, and although the movie makes a point of telling us that he builds stuff other than weapons, obviously the weapons are the most interesting, oh, and ps, all the rest of the development is funded by the military, so take your moral highground and shove it. Or something. Anyhow, so he goes to Afghanistan to show off some badass new weapons to the US army. He gets kidnapped by evil Afghanis who want him to build them some weapons. But by the way, they already have some, which outrages our hero. It later turns out that his company actually sold them the weapons. So he builds this awesome Iron Man suit in order to escape, and later perfects it in order to go back and kick some bad guy ass. Conveniently enough, the US military is also interested in fighting these bad guys, but Starks is not really interested in working with them, for reasons that are rather unclear. And what exactly he aims to accomplish is also never quite explained. In one curious scene, he rolls into this village where the bad guys are doing some bad things, kills most of them, and then delivers the head honcho to the people of the village so that they can deal with him. I don't actually remember what he does to the main bad guy, or if he even does anything to him, because the focus shifts to the homefront, where the main bad guy turns out to be none other than his co-boss at the company, who goes a little berserk and decides to take out Tony so as to preserve the weapons making portion of the company. Though it turns out that actually, Tony's kidnapping was actually orchestrated by this guy in the first place, in other words, the event that led to Tony's wanting to shut down the weapons building portion of the company, and generally to his conversion into caring humanitarian, was actually orchestrated by a guy who didn't have a clear motive to eliminate Starks until that conversion happened. So it's all a bit muddled.

I guess generally action movies, especially ones based on comic books, are generally walking a fine line between plot and action. On the one hand, you want to maximize the explosions part, because really, that's what we're there for. On the other hand, the plots tend to be fairly complicated and you need to have at least some explanatory stuff in order to make the characters compelling and all that. Unfortunately, comic book plots generally don't really condense well. And if you do a half-ass job, as this movie did, it really drags the rest of the film down. So in the end, it was 2 hours long, and despite a lot of potential, it just didn't quite work for me.


Cool Iron Man costume said...

Hey great review! A few corrections I want to point out, first is that terrorist head honcho is actually killed by the Co boss- remember, he collected the pieces of the original Iron Man armor and wants the co boss to build it for him.

Also, the co boss originally hired the terrorist to kidnap and kill someone, but he didn't tell them it was Tony, so they made a film of him and told the co boss he paid them "trinkets to kill a prince" and hence refused to kill him.

culture_vulture said...

Thanks for the comment!

More elaborations than corrections, n'est ce pas?

Did the co-boss kill the head honcho guy, or just paralyze him? I don't actually remember, but in a sense, that only supports my point that ultimately, it doesn't really seem to matter - the focus shifts to the domestic, and the foreign side just sort of fizzles out.

And the fact that the "terrorists" refuse to kill Tony doesn't really explain why co-boss wanted to kill him in the first place, eh?

And that is a cool iron man costume. And quite the bargain.