Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Iron Man

Every year, film's seem to have many recurring trends that exist preeminently throughout the entire year. Last year, we had long-awaited projects and directors maturing to deliver their masterpieces, the repeated long-awaited sequels and some pretty good westerns to say the least. This year, we have some very radical films achieving great success, and in genre terms, we have the peak of the superhero genre. Even the worser of the films, like The Incredible Hulk are at least watchable. On the other end of the spectrum, we have what is currently my favourite film of the year, The Dark Knight, and no, it is not because I am a Batman fan. Anyway, right here in the middle is Iron Man. Now, to be frank, I am not overly familiar with the Iron Man material, in the way that I read the Hellboy and Batman comics. The only Iron Man I can recall is a comic which may well have been a Fantastic Four comic. Anyway, in this film, Tony Stark, a genius engineer of weapons who is kidnapped in Afghanistan after an ambush on his convoy, and in the process has shrapnel imbedded in his heart. Forced to make a weapon for terrorists, he instead creates a suit which is designed both for him to escape and to stop the shrapnel in his heart from killing him. Well, for starters, I really enjoyed this film. It in a sense neutralised my feelings of disdain after Body of Lies, and offered up a film that while being greatly entertaining film, was instantly rewatchable. Robert Downey Jr fits into the suit with such ease you would think that he was born in it. Throughout the movie, his character changes in order to discover what he was meant for. At the beginning of the film, he is an arrogant nihilist who does not care about anyone but himself. By the end, he has come to his senses and realised his mistakes and decided to use his money for the better of others and for peace, not for himself and war. Downey plays both parts in great suitable fashion. Also noteworthy, once again, is the performance of Jeff Bridges as Obidiah Stane. Like Liam Neeson in Batman Begins, he serves as the mentor figure, yet slowly is revealed to be the true villian. Bridges in this film manages to be a warmhearted father figure to Stark, while at the same time a coldhearted totalist, bouncing between the two with great ease. Downey and Bridges have both certainly had good years, with Bridges giving two great supporting performances, and Downey also giving us the controversial Kirk Lazarus of Tropic Thunder. However, on the acting side, Gwyneth Paltrow and Terence Howard are both filler really, which will surely be expanded upon in the inevitable sequels. At least Paltrow's role will, what with Terence Howard dropping out so Cheeto can take over the mantle. Director Jon Favreau is clearly having fun making this movie. Like Del Toro and the Hellboy movies, this guy is a fan and knows his source material well, and directs with a sense for developing the origin story, while throwing in pointers and references to the future in at the same time. He also certainly knows how to shoot his film well, with the action scenes being particularly ingenious, shooting action scenes with dialogue involved, in order to heighten the character interaction and not completely devolve it into robots hitting each other. Now, to dig I go. As I mentioned earlier, this film is an origin story and in this sense, there is only so far you can go, as in you must tell how the story began. The only superhero film I have seen which has successfully created a masterpiece and the origin story at the same time is Batman Begins. Whereas in Batman Begins they successfully mold the two, here Iron Man begins to struggle. For example, as mentioned earlier Jim Rhodes is just filler. In the comic, he is a central character to the story whereas here he just appears every now and again. To compare with Batman Begins, they planned on introducing Harvey Dent as a minor character. This was decided against because they believed they would not do the character justice. As you can see from the sequel, being a central character, they clearly did do him justice. I know, a film should be judged on its own merits, but sometimes the merits of others highlights some of the mistakes that others make. Also, I believe that the character of Obidiah Stane was not done justice. For example, here we have a wonderful villain throughout, who is a representative of that corporate greed, which as you probably know is all good and dandy in my book. He also is the father figure for Stark, note that first two letters are the same and the five letter name, which creates a symbiotic relationship between the two. For the movie to have a short ten minute at most scene of robots hitting each other I believe does not do the character justice. At the least the two could speak, whereas in the Hulk movie it was two monsters grunting for twenty-two minutes. I have a real problem with great villians being mistreated like this. Even in the climax with The Dark Knight they kept cutting away to the boat which let's face it, was a diversion to the battle between Batman and The Joker. However, I must say that despite the above flaws, the film was no doubt a terrifically enjoyable romp. Yes, it's the origin story, but I believe that, in keeping with the trend, that Iron Man will flourish once it moves up a gear and hits its first sequel, just like Spider-Man, X-Men and the Batman films. They will have more creative freedom with the characters and no doubt create a better film.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10

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