Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Film Review: Iron Man

Perhaps I ought to reassess X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3 and Rise of the Silver Surfer.

After all, if those three hadn’t been such unmitigated cinematic disasters, it’s unlikely Marvel would’ve set up their own studio and started producing films themselves.

Iron Man – the first movie to come out of Marvel Studios – offers a pretty good indication that Marvel are tired of having their shit fucked with by 20th Century Fox and are ready to get their house in order.

The film begins with weapons manufacturer Tony Stark trying to flog some Jericho missiles to the US military in Afghanistan, before he’s wounded and captured by a terrorist cell called Ten Rings.

Ten Rings order Stark to build a Jericho missile for them and allow fellow captive Dr Yinsen to implant a car battery-powered electromagnet into Stark’s chest to keep a piece of shrapnel from piercing his heart. Stark quickly tires of lugging a car battery around and creates a new power supply based on some technology that he’d already constructed for Stark Industries: an Ark Reactor. The Ark Reactor will power something a lot bigger than a tiny magnet, so Stark builds a crude power suit and fights his way out of his prison.

After his escape and a grilling from a Vanity Fair journalist, Stark vows to stop developing weapons and begins work on, well.... another weapon: the power suit that will eventually allow him to become Iron Man.

His business partner, Obadiah Stane, doesn’t approve of the company’s new direction and, along with fellow board members, turfs Stark out of his own organisation.

After another meeting with the toothy girl from Vanity Fair, Stark learns that his company are continuing to sell weapons to terrorists and he asks his assistant Pepper Potts to find the shipping manifests so that he can track down the illicit shipments and destroy them. Potts learns that it was Stane who hired the Ten Rings to kill Stark but before she can tell her boss, Stane nabs the Ark Reactor from his chest, hops into his own power suit and begins causing carnage.

Stark plants the original Ark Reactor back in his chest, fires up his Iron Man suit and, of course, kicks Stane’s ass.

It’s not a complicated movie but it’s a near-flawless superhero flick: plenty of thrills and spills to satisfy the adrenalin-hungry action movie fan and more than enough waves at the geeky comic book crowd. Not only is there reference to The Iron Monger, but we’re teased with the inclusion of War Machine in the inevitable sequel. And that’s all before Samuel L Jackson makes his post-credits appearance as Nick Fury and fellates fanboys everywhere with the merest mention of The Avengers Initiative.

The only problem with the film is that, at times, it’s uncomfortably jingoistic. Marvel have moved the original story from Vietnam so that Stark can be captured in Afghanistan by some dark-skinned, bearded villains with frighteningly hooked noses, who may as well be wearing I Heart Taliban t-shirts.

Not only does Potts refer to the anti-military Vanity Fair reporter as “trash” (take that anti-war activitists!), but we’re informed that the US military refuse to attack enemy military targets when they have “human shields”, which is surprising since the term was originally used in the Iraq War to excuse the death of civilians from US bombs. But I suppose it’s nice to see Marvel attempt to rehabilitate the American military’s reputation.

Patriotic chest-beating aside, director Jon Faverau brilliantly captures the lifestyle of a billionaire playboy and the special effects are genuinely breathtaking.

It’s also impeccably cast. Downey Jr plays the womanising, scotch-swilling Tony Stark wonderfully, Jeff Bridges is fantastically villainous as Stane and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is back to perfectly straddling the line between vulnerable and sexy that she last did in Se7en.

If the cast can be kept onboard and the writers can come up with decent ways to introduce some of Iron Man’s more fantastic enemies like The Mandarin, MODOK and Ultimo, I’d say it looks like Marvel Studios are onto something.

The Hulk looks shit though.

No comments: