Thursday, May 01, 2008

IRON MAN: MOVIE REVIEW

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard
Director: John Favreau
Runtime: 126 min.
Rating: ****1/2
Genre: Action, Superhero

Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you, you would be hard pressed to find a better film this summer to munch your big bag of popcorn on. Iron Man is light on everything, almost everything except fun. The kind of fun you would most want to have lain on that popcorn of yours. Pure gripping fun. There’s always a laugh, a chuckle just around the corner, and so is a thunder of an action sequence. Not big CGI-driven nonsense, but the kind of action that makes you jump in your seats, pump your fists, want to forget commonly appreciated cinema-theater behavior and growl a ‘YEAH’. And then, smile in satisfaction.
When Iron Man was introduced into the Marvel world way back in 1963, the early seeds of a great embarrassment, for at least one country, were being sown. It would be some time before results were reaped, but Iron Man, the almost clich├ęd amalgamation of billionaire playboy business man, was already harvested in Vietnam. More than forty years hence, history seems to have served a weird purpose by repeating itself – it has provided an alternate, very contemporary setting for the cinema version of the Marvel superhero to be re-harvested. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is the billionaire businessman, a MIT grad exceptionally genius, and more importantly owner of Stark Industries – a verifiable Lord of War. His latest designed weapons are the reason the United States Armed Forces need to be considered the scourge of all its enemies. On the demonstration of a new missile system, intended to blast the Afghani enemy right inside his cave, Stark visits Bagram. Just as he’s enjoying with the Air Force unit, their military vehicles are caught in a booby trap and everyone on his side gets killed. The resulting firing embeds shrapnel in his body, and when he gains consciousness, he sees himself a prisoner of a curious pacemaker. More importantly he has been taken hostage by some group of Afghani militia in some cave in possession of weapons manufactured by Stark industries, which is as good as being in the middle of nowhere. As he realizes, his fellow prisoner Yin Sen (Shaun Tob) who is some kind of a multi-linguist wizard himself, has placed that pacemaker in his body, which is working on a car battery, that works as some sort of a magnet holding the shrapnel from reaching his heart.
Now don’t ask me, how a car battery, minus its home, drives its way into those caves. I have no clue, and if you intend to put yourself through such questions, I would advise you better not. Look, Iron Man is a convenient film, by which I mean, when someone wants to find a stick to be broken they invariably find one nice and dry to be broken to the satisfaction of an echoing crackle. Tony Stark is ordered by the militia leader to build for them the latest missile, and under that pretext we see a lot of material that I guess ought not to be there. But if the film starts addressing such issues of logic, there wouldn’t be any summer left, and it would be very imprudent of us to ask anything of a film that has been designed only to entertain, to help us have a blast. If a film does try and hurdle over any such problem, say for example at the end how does the villain who turns into the Iron Monger so deftly acclimatize himself to the new suit/machine without any apparent practice, with only convenience in its mind and our entertainment I do not have any problem. And entertain it most certainly does.
Almost heading perpendicular to all the movies of this genre, Favreau (the writer of Swingers) doesn’t bludgeon us with some insipid romantic arc or an out-of-place moral conflict. In a way, he returns the comic book films to its origins where it is all primarily meant to be crazy fantastic fun. He almost always succeeds in what he sets out to do with a scene keeping things running smooth and fine, always managing to wrap its otherwise grim situations in breezy light humor. Yet, when the moments come, whatever few there are, they are touching, romantic and whatever else they were intended to be. They key to such success lay with the actors, prestigious names all. Robert Downey Jr. is turning out to be one of our most bankable actors. There’s always wit in his ways, his own brand, and what he does to the character is something what Depp brought to Captain Sparrow – he brings exceptional charm. Iron Man owes as much to him as much to anyone else, and it is the twinkle in his eye that always wins us over. He’s left on his own for a significant period, constructing the suit and with the aide of his fabulous virtual partner, and it is probably the best time of the film. His exchanges with Bridges, who chews scenery like a true master, blast off as much of a firework as any action sequence. Paltrow, as the secretary Miss ‘Pepper’ Pots graces the film with just about enough of her delicate touch, and she is a delight whenever she is on screen. I’ve to admit here, when I first saw Paltrow in Se7en all those years back, I didn’t warm up to her too much. But over the years she has kind of grown up on me, and I think that is the mark of a good actor. Howard has his own moment or two, and I would love him to have a real major part in what will be a sequel I’ll be keeping a desperate eye on.
In a way, Iron Man is as much a superhero film as it is tending towards a parody of the genre. Which it isn’t at all. The film quite brilliantly juggles its way between the seriousness of the moral conundrum, that the weapons of destruction in the hands of the Afghan militia are of his own making, and then occasionally shrugs it away in a sly moment of wit. It tries to wrestle with the whole weapons cause war versus vice-versa debate too, but wisely turns away, just giving us a fleeting thread to ponder upon. Here is something else I managed to lay my hand upon. Initially Stark is the Merchant of Death, and when he stumbles upon the perils of his own creation and how they’re wiping off soldiers of his won country, he creates what is perceived as the Masterpiece of Death. Only to be snatched away from him from some capitalist entity. Like that everlasting struggle. I kind of liked that underlying theme, intentional or not.
What sure is intentional is it is having fun with its material, loads of fun, and that is what rubs off on us. Iron Man fires off the rockets of his arm, and turns away, and in a super-‘wow’ scene he walks away as the tank blows up behind him. It is the kind of scene you would want to capture in your latest Canon digi-cam. It is the kind of scene you would want to rewind again and again when you purchase the DVD. That is the kind of panache superhero films have been missing all this while, Okay, maybe Hellboy and that was a seriously overlooked film, but there’ve been precious few offering such fun. I guess at some level, Iron Man is a parody on Batman too, for obvious reasons and if Stan Lee claims he was influenced by Howard Hughes, there’s an acknowledgment due.
The ending is a bit on crutches, but never mind, it never irks you one wee bit. It is enjoyable in its own way. As are the rest of the action sequences, which are short but roaring thunder. I was on a back to back schedule, at least when I drove from my home. Iron Man dispelled even the foggiest notions of any such plan, and off I drove back to my home. A film that can change your plan, and give you fun for a whole weekend is, I guess, a real slam-bang start to this summer. All that with more than a dash of heart. With the major chunk of the cream yet to be served, I can only lick my fingers in glee. Marvel, bring on Captain America. I’m all eyes. And Michael Bay, bring on your Megatrons and Autobots and Decepticons. Iron man is going to kick some serious metal posterior.

1 comment:

Atrisa said...

I loved I loved I loved! Watched it twice at the hall :)