Sunday, 11 May 2008

Iron Man - Review

So, Iron Man is finally out, and the review is finally here. I don’t know if you can remember my thoughts on the Iron Man trailer, all the way back in February, but I made a few crucial points back then, a few things I felt Iron Man needed to avoid. My first point was to keep the origin story plotline to a minimum. The second suggestion was to make the villain interesting and therefore the resulting conflict dramatic.

Iron Man failed to heed either of these suggestions. It is all origin story, and the conflict between hero and villain is disengaging for the audience to the extent that we really just don’t care at all. The villain is terrible, and the actual heroic of Iron Man are kept to a minimum. All he does is deal with his own self-important morality crisis and then defend his own life. He does not even get a kitten out of a tree once. He is really not mush of a “hero”.

The good news is that Iron Man is still awesome.

And I claim that is because of my third point: make a hero who is both super-strong and still super relatable. This is based upon one key principle, Robert Downey Jr.

The casting as a whole is superb, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges do good jobs at supporting the tone of the film, even if their characters are a bit flat. Special kudos must go to Robert Downey Jr, who turns a potentially disastrous character into a watchable, relatable hero. His delivery is perfect, he carries scenes on his own.

He is perfectly supported by the effects work. Iron Man truly looks like he is flying. He truly looks like he can do what he does, and the division between computer effects and a man in a suit are brilliantly done.

Unless, that is, you decide to pay real close attention. Under scrutiny, you can see some flaws. My advice, don’t watch properly. Just let it float on over you. One good point I should add is that Iron Man does a good job of showing the audience what is going on, something becoming rare in a post-Bourne world. Yes, Transformers, I am looking at you.

Iron Man stays away from the traditional love story that most superheroes films focus on. Iron Man also stays away from the traditional Bad-Guy-needs-to-be-stopped-from-doing-evil story that typifies the genre. There is not even a natural disaster on an accident that needs to be averted. There is a small amount of love, and there is a small amount of evil that only serves to make the last half hour of the film quite disappointing.

What Iron Man does do is split itself neatly into three segments. In the first, the main character, Tony Stark, is captured by terrorists who want him to build them a superweapon, and he embarks on a plan to escape. After these first 40 minutes (exactly), the second period is spent with Stark working out the mechanics of building a working suit. The final fragment involves Stark using his new suit to try and stop another suit inhabited by the oh-so-obviously evil baddy. This division works well, but it does give the impression that you are watching three short films, that are only loosely interconnected. There is no feeling of true continuity to the feel and tone of the film. And then the film ends just when it has found it’s feet.

Making matters worse is the pathetic predictability of the whole film. Every scene plays out almost exactly as you would suspect. This is a traditional superhero film. It is quite well done, but if you are not a fan of the genre this will not be the film to convert you.

This brings me to my main point. The morality of the film is questionable, the view of death and of violence I found disturbing. I know I shouldn't find a popcorn film like this troubling in any way, but the choice to place much of the film in the middle-east, with terrorists, did not sit well with me, personally.

Nonetheless, Iron Man is brilliant for what it is. It is well made, well acted, and the action is well done. But that is all it is. "well" sums up all aspects of this film. I left the cinema feeling content, but the more I thought about what I had seen the less impressed I was.

What pissed me off most was the feeling that I had just waited months to see the beginning of a story. Iron Man is setting up a sequel, and I hate it for this, because as soon as Iron Man is ready to go, we stop.

Ironically, this may read like a bad review, but Iron Man is actually quite enjoyable. I would recommend going to see it. Luckily for you, you already know if you want to see Iron Man or not, it is so formulaic and so traditional. My first impression was that it was Awesome. It is Awesome. It is just not as awesome as I had hoped. But then, I was hoping for it to be the best thing ever.

I am not too happy with this review. I don’t feel I did the film justice. It is, actually really good. I am just bitter, because it falls for every trap I hoped it would be smart enough to avoid. That aside, Robert Downey Jr portrays the best main character in a superhero film, and the film is an enjoyable way to pass a few hours. And from this point on, I will build up in my own heart the hype for the nest film.

In three words? Predictable. Anti-climatic. Formulaic.

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