Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Wit, Little Irony

Into town for the general press preview of Iron Man. Directed by John Favreau, the action is as hard-edged as the new incarnation of the Bond series, and while there’s the expected ton of CGI, there’s also room for some smart dialogue and good performances. Most notably that of Robert Downey, Jr, who carries the movie with his charmingly charismatic take on Tony Stark, effortlessly shading from wisecracking irresponsible playboy to wisecracking tortured genius. Gwyneth Paltrow does her nuanced best with the two-dimensional character of his PA, ‘Pepper’ Potts, while Jeff Bridges amply fills the Gene Hackman role as bald, cigar-chewing, jovially menacing father-figure.

The movie does a fair job of filling a summer-blockbuster shaped hole, and the first act, apart from shifting the venue from Vietnam to Afghanistan, sticks pretty closely to the origin story published in Tales of Suspense 39 way back in 1962. (I picked up Iron Man’s story a little later, along with Thor and the Fantastic Four, not really out of choice, I have to admit: the spinner in my local newsagent stocked Marvel rather than DC comic books.) Problem is, the origin story - warlord kidnaps American armaments genius, forces him to create a copy of his superduper new missile system in a cave, and is surprised when he creates an invincible suit of armour instead - is pure hokum. And while the warlord may be leader of a multinational terrorist group, he's still a cliche of oriental fiendishness (he's also a diluted version of Iron Man's original nemesis, the Mandarin), To be fair, the script makes some attempt to deal with the paradox at its heart - Tony Stark responds to a brutal lesson in blowback from his own arms company by building a more powerful weapon, in an era where we've had ample real-life lessons that no amount of high-tech can give our military adventures happy endings - but in the end it simply sidesteps it, and delivers an entertaining but pretty predictable WWW-style slug-fest. Still, after the very noisy denoument, the movie doesn’t entirely waste the saving graces of its sly wit and Robert Downey, Jr's mischievousness: there’s a neat parting shot that slings us straight towards part two of the franchise.


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