Thanks to Devon, I got to see Iron Man on Wednesday. Now that everyone’s had a chance to see it I can dissect with impunity.
First, there were definitely things I liked about Iron Man. I liked the Tony Stark character overall and I was pleasantly surprised by Downey Jr’s acting. The building and testing of the second generation suit segment was fun and entertaining. I also really appreciated that they folded the original 1960’s Iron Man cartoon theme music into the soundtrack. Nerd gem, that.
The second half of the movie is predicated on the rather silly construct, if you will, of this jury-rigged bullet deflecting suit of armor that our hero made in the caves in Afghanistan*. You can’t really get around that with a movie about a suit of power armor, so I’m willing to forgive that convention.
Gwyneth Paltrow seemed completely out of her element. I get the sense that she just didn’t get her character or the movie or both. Everything about her and her relationship with Stark was completely awkward and I wanted it to go away. The whole sequence of her being chased by Stane and being a damsel in distress over a cell phone was B.A.D.
With regards to Jeff Bridges as Stane – I appreciated the moxie of this casting. I really wanted it to work but by the end of the film, it didn’t. They took a good, smart, interesting character (though I would have liked to have had some more background and character development on this Stane fellow) and stripped him down to a one-dimensional idiot in a giant robot suit by the end of the film. They pitch-shifted his voice down to a suitably evil level and he transitioned from a realistic threat to a cartoony super villain. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Toren, how can you fault a movie for being cartoony when it’s based on what is essentially a cartoon?” Well, dear reader, the fault lies in trying to treat your subject matter with a serious, realistic tone, and then hamstringing that tone with cartooniness. Mixing the two is a delicate dance that few can pull off.
I don’t even know what to say about the final battle. It wasn’t anything to write home about and it was surprisingly short. Except for the part where Iron Man was hanging on to the skylight frame and yelling at Pepper…that was not short at all. And did I miss something that explained how Pepper survived the falling glass AND the huge explosion from the reactor right beside her?
Obadiah Stane’s remark about how in trying to nullify the world’s weapons Stark ironically created the world’s most dangerous one pretty much sums up the problem with the movie. It seemed on the verge of addressing some compelling issues and then brushed them aside for a CGI melee. Stane et al said that Stark came back a changed man after his experience in Afghanistan. It was alluded to that he was mad. He certainly came across as a nut asking the press to sit on the floor while he chowed down on Burger King. I liked where that was going and I wanted to see more. Here is a guy that obviously has an inner conflict and a lot of baggage and he deals with them in a way that no one could call sane – by building a suit of power armor for himself – but the movie approaches it as if it’s the logical route (rather than, say, using his fiscal power to make policy changes – I know, boring subject for a movie but that’s the other extreme here, and something in the middle could have been just as entertaining), and that he’s a good man with a heart who is doing the right thing. Down with the crazy Afghan warmongers and up with the crazy American warmongers, rah rah rah. The story would flip flop from serious to frivolous – from helpless villagers being separated from their families and executed to cartoony robot battles – so that I simply became confused about what the movie was about. My best guess is “unaddressed post traumatic stress disorder + unlimited cash = flying killing vengeance machine.”
The bottom line is that making a realistic, faithful Iron Man adaptation set in today’s world is an enormous task. Hats off for trying, I say. I can’t think of how I would go about making a better script but just because the job is impossible doesn’t make the final product any less lackluster. So that’s why I only gave it 5/10. Yes, I would probably see a sequel and yes, I am looking forward to The Incredible Hulk, although I am expecting it will suffer the same pitfalls.
*Why the weapons demo that preluded the sequence couldn’t be done in a safe US military proving ground zone isn’t addressed.