Monday, May 5, 2008

Iron Man

Observant readers might have have deduced that I really, really like comics. I'm a lot more ambivalent about the superhero genre, despite - no, because of - its ridiculous dominance of western sequential art. Obviously there's been some great work done in the genre, and you'll have to pry my copy of Watchmen from my cold, dead fingers, but having 90% of the output consist of people wearing their underwear on the outside of their pants really does nothing but stifle the medium.

The recent glut of superhero movies has elicited similarly mixed feelings, although that's more to do with their rather varieable quality than their role in the grand sceme of any industry. Batman Begins? Fucking brilliant, despite the obligatory descent into action in the third act. Spiderman? I never got further than the embarrassingly awful Forrest Gump bit on the bus before switching off the telly. X-Men? The character introductions were mildly diverting, but then the movie suddenly ended. X-Men 2? Aces. X-Men 3? No. Just no. Fantastic Four? I watched it on an airplane, and almost walked out. And I can't be bothered with Superman in any shape or form, except for when Batman beats the snot out of him in The Dark Knight Returns.

Thankfully, Iron Man is definitely belongs in the upper echelon of superhero movies, despite having a host of problems. The plot's another tired superhero origin, there's some serious handwaving going on with the whole shrapnel/heart situation, and the movie seems to attempt some geopolitical relevance before settling on being irrelevant fluff, leaving some of the earlier ripped-from-the-headlines images from Stark's captivity sitting uncomfortable and isolated.

(I don't mind people tackling controversial subjects in movies, and I didn't blink an eye at the suicide bombing/subway stuff in V for Vendetta for instance. But silly as it was, V was resolutely political. I start to squirm a bit when people drop stuff that reminds you of people getting beheaded on camera in fun popcorn fluff. Maybe I'm just getting overly sensitive in my old age.)

But all those objections melt away in the face of Robert Downey JR living it up as an irresponsible playboy (The man has a stripper pole in his airplane! Tony Stark really is a genius.), delivering zingers with impeccable timing, and constructing his Iron Man suit in almost pornographic detail.

Sadly, it occured to someone that this was in fact a comic book movie costing millions of dollars, and they had better get back to the plot and have a big robot slugfet to resolve it because that's what the kids want, and my interest waned. Jon Favreau is a sensible enough director to get the special effects out of the characters' way, but when it comes to delivering enough visual spectacle to amuse in a fight even when the outcome's given, he isn't up to the challenge.

The result's an uneven movie that's usually a ton of fun, mostly thanks to Robert Downey JR's performance (although he has some capable suppport from Gwynneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges) before evaporating in a limp climax, and then suddenly rebounding with a brilliant final scene. I don't know if it deserves quite all the adulation it's getting, but it's more than worth the price of admission.


Richie Best said...

Well its still wayyyy fucking better then the new Indy flick. What was the fucking deal with the ending anyway???

SH said...

George Lucas is a talentless hack that's unable to make a creative decision that doesn't sink whatever endeavour he's involved with, that's what was up with it.

I just finished reading the leaked Darabont draft that Lucas vetted, and even though a lot of the same things happen, it's so much better it's not funny.