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Iron Man

“That’s how dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

I had a physically positive reaction to Iron Man. It admittedly didn’t come until after the credits, but it was there. The rest of the movie was enjoyable but it really felt like an origin story, which brings to mind what is frequently off about the pacing in comic book movies. What this amounts to is essentially three action scenes where Iron Man is actively fighting someone, and a few more where he’s just flying around and testing his creation.

I’m going to do this a little differently to normal, and I’m just going to keep everything up top, put spoilers in the back seat.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a right bastard. He chairs Stark Industries and he sells weapons of war. On his way back from a demonstration of the new Jericho missile in Afghanistan, Stark is captured by an equal opportunities terrorist group called The Ten Rings (they speak every language except for English – they could be anyone and everyone!) and charged with building them their own missile. Instead, Stark builds an armoured suit replete with flame throwers and blasts his way to freedom! Back in America, he decides that weapons don’t really choose which side uses them – and that perhaps he could become the one man army to end all killing in his name. Unlike most vigilante justices, though, Iron Man doesn’t become a city hero and get enthused over by Lucy Lawless: this is just baby steps.

Being the first in a projected trilogy, and with the actors already signed on for the next one, it’s no real surprise that Iron Man seems to be just a heck of a lot of build up, peppered with a lot of good scenes and a compelling performance from Robert Downey Jr. While everyone can admit that Spider-Man 3 flat out sucked, the other two weren’t without their pacing faults. Iron Man doesn’t even try to build up a crazy arse Willem Defoe equivalent, it just goes for it. I predict that, with its “Big Weapon” targets, that it might not be very popular with conservative audiences. I mean, who doesn’t want war? Well, not Tony Stark anymore!

Given the intro structure, it’s hard to analyse how the movie is built. I couldn’t decide whether it was three acts or simply two and a half. I couldn’t decide whether instant translation of a video by a computer was clever or stupid. It was also difficult to see whether Terrence Howard’s Jimmy Rhodes had much purpose being there were it not for his projected outcome in future movies as “supporting character becoming a superhero in his own right”.

But that’s a quibble, and I’m good at that. While Tony Stark is no Bruce Wayne, I will profess a certain fondness for super heroes whose “powers” come from their own ingenuity and technological assistance than from any accident of birth, spider-bite or solar flares. Stark is a flawed character, and the time leading up to his imprisonment shows that: mercenary, unconcerned about other people, alcoholic and, if not misogynistic, then definitely sexist (I mean, come on, the flight attendants on his private jet get his drunk and dance around and then a pole emerges from the ground. I don’t think I’m wrong in reading that).

The time in captivity is a good showcase of Stark’s intelligence and his improbable developmental skills. It’s not until the end of the process that you realise he’s had a laptop to work with all along, but the suspension of disbelief is something that is absolutely needed to be able to swallow any of this movie at all. On the outside, Stark partakes in a spot of product placement and then essentially goes into hermitage to build a Mark II of the suit. While this is interesting enough, Stark almost has only himself to bounce off; Downey Jr. carries the movie not because his acting is better than everyone else’s, but because no one else is actually in it for the majority of the time. He has a dang sight of a good time doing it, though.

What it boils down to is this: Iron Man is good, but it needed a smidge more Iron Man. If the movie performs well, then I look forward to a sequel I can embrace with no qualms because they can just go “Hey! Iron Man! Whooooo!”, skip all exposition, and cut right to the picking things up, throwing them, and exploding them. The ending leaves you hungry for more, because it’s that second that it totally kicks into gear – and then, sadly, it’s over. Still, I strongly advise that you stay until the end of the credits.

Hey, what’s this? Spoilers after the cut? Well, guess I’d better steer clear then if’n I don’t want to be spoiled.

“The greatest trick that Marvel ever pulled was convincing the world that Nick Fury didn’t exist.”

Last week I read that Samuel L. Jackson was cut from Iron Man. Turns out this was a lie. Right after the end credits, he’s right there. I had no idea he’d be there, and so my pulse went up, my body tingled and I’m telling you this – I had tears at the corners of my eyes. Now, you might tell me that this was the simple fact of me having a heart attack, but I’m pretty sure it was a magical reaction to the awesomeness that had been placed in front of me.
To be honest, that part after the end credits totally changed my perception of the film and, if I were arbitrary enough to give number or letter ratings rather than relying on you interpreting my words into a positive or negative spin, I would have raised its grade by a whole letter or number.

As to the ending itself, I think that it was the movie’s perfect moment. “To hell with it, I am Iron Man” is the conclusion, but rightly it’s the beginning. I mean, there’s two hours of moral quandaries and business in-fighting to get to this point. There are some set pieces but it just doesn’t compare to something like Superman Returns (endless action to the point of boring repetition, while you wait for Parker Posey to light the screen back up), X-Men (tedious characters, pretentious camera work and good actors that taste of nothing, with a dash of “homophobia/racism metaphor theatre”) or Spider-Man (pacing issues, lame one liners delivered in Tobey Maguire’s detestable voice, precious tritium) – I can see that kids who went to see this movie could end up bored because really it’s a bunch of superhero theory.

Really, this is the practice run. Hopefully the grand and proper debut of a hero christened only at the end of the film will fully realise the potential contained within.

PS. Was this a huge mess of mixed messages?

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