Thursday, May 29, 2008

Better Late than Never: Iron Man

I finally got around to seeing Iron Man. This is going to be short, since a lot of what needs to be said has been said.

It's not super-witty all the way through, but it has a good amount of funny, and the funny is sold really well by Downey: the fire extinguisher robot was great, as was Downey going into a wall. That is no small thing since the wave of new superhero films -- not counting lightweight fare like the FF movies which I did not even see -- have been overly serious moral parables about the weight of guilt and responsibility. X2 handled it well, but they had Shakespearian actors on their side. Batman Begins I remember as being really sour for a summer blockbuster with a guy in a cape, but people keep telling me I need to go back and see it again. One of these days. My friend Erin turned me around on the Hulk, which I hated when I saw it , but again, I will have to re-see it. And, with the Hulk, you have to admire the attempt to write an artsy meditation on anger using a superhero movie. Iron Man has nods to that seriousness, as Tony Stark must repent to change his life, but it seems more in the spirit of comics to me: the guilt is there, but it never gets in the way of a good time. Iron Man remembers the first principle of storytelling: the story comes first, and the moralizing or whatever, second, if at all. I know people have complained that the terrorists are a little flat, and they are -- but they are COMIC BOOK TERRORISTS, a phrase that is usually a pejorative metaphor, but here is the literal truth, so I am willing to let it go.

I do not know if everyone saw the J.J. Abrams clip from the TED conference I put up here a while back on Brad's suggestion. But Abrams makes a really good point about Jaws: he shows the scene everyone knows, where the girl swimming at night is eaten by the shark with all the music we all know; then he shows a quiet scene between our hero and his son in which he says "Gimme a kiss. Because I need it." Abrams point is that everyone steals the wrong stuff -- it's the father-son stuff that filmmakers should be learning from, not the shark stuff. What makes me think of this is the scene between Paltrow and Bridges where she is stealing stuff off of his computer. It is far and away the best scene in the film -- a kind of amazing feat, given all the bombast around it. Brad worked on the film and a friend of his, who was involved with editing, told me they called it "The Hitchcock Scene" and it really is: sold suspenseful storytelling hung on good acting. I was mesmerized by that bit. It shows craftsmanship. Bridges is really great as a villian, which surprised the heck out of me, especially because with that dome he really has the potential to come off like a poor man's Luthor.

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Did anyone else think the hair -- both on the head and on the face -- of Downey and Bridges really captured the antagonism somehow, like the Moore-Morrison conflict played out in All-Beard and No-Beard of the Manhattan Guardian?

I suppose we should still not spoil the post-credits fanboy moment, so I will talk around it. It is hard not to be entertained by it, especially because when you see these movies they are usually aimed at the general population; inside jokes usually don't go over well. But this is more of an inside-outside joke if you see what I mean -- and inside joke that works because it is outside the movie proper. It was a scene really just for the people that read a popular comic book series a while back, and I appreciated it.

Redbelt is next for me, in the better late than never series.


James said...

"Bridges is really great as a villian, which surprised the heck out of me"

God yeah, me too. I love Bridges, but had no idea he could do menace like this.

Marc Caputo said...

How could you doubt Jeff Bridges?

He's the Dude.

And the Dude abides.

hcduvall said...

Somewhat to my dismay, I still haven't seen Iron Man. I opted to not brave the crowds oening weekend and saw Forbidden Kingdom instead. (Quiet everyone, I k now what it looks like. It's great if you're 8. Which admittedly I'm not, but I wanted punching and kicking in my movies at the time). Redbelt is the other one on my short list though so let's set something up if you've going soon...

Christian said...

I can't believe people are complaining about the terrorist being flat. First off, they were cannonfodder. Really. You don't hear people complaining how the nazis got an unfair deal in Indiana Jones.

And unless you speak Urdu (I remember this one, because a friend of mine, who knows Farsi, was translating for another friend of mine, when he saw it) and the other dozen languages being used, how could you possibly take all that in account?

I thought they handled the potential "crisis" of being racist, with just saying the terrorists were basically from every single country in the world.

James said...

And set up the Mandarin! (The "Ten Rings"!) Is the guy with the Ghengis Khan-fetish the Mandarin himself? Or just a lieutenant? Could he have survived Stane's men? MAYBE HIS RING IS MAGIC.

Jason said...

That JJ Abrams clip is great. Abrams is my god.

Also, this is an excellent review. Makes me reconsider the film a bit. Something still irks me about it -- the romantic-comedy dialogue and the predictability of the plot, I guess, although I've forgiven both those things in other movies ... I don't know. I'd hate to think I am just so perverse that I need to dislike it just because I've read so many positive reviews. I don't want to be that guy!

I do agree that it was brilliant to put the fanboy moment after the credits. A perfect solution.

Lauren said...

No, you are totally right about Batman Begins.