Monday, 23 June 2008

Duun Duun dun dun dun, da da da da daa da IR-ON MAN

It took me a while to catch the second of the Marvel Movies that continue to teach Sam Raimi how it's done, but Iron Man is definitely a welcome addition to the menagerie of comic book films that are so thick on the ground these days. I always enjoyed a good origin story, and Favreau has turned in a rollicking introduction to the Iron Man character that's choc full of great action, shameless fun times and rampant German car product placement.

Tony Stark is the mega-rich, decadent playboy genius arms dealer, head of a futuristic mega-corp, supplying uber-weapons to the US military complex, safe in the knowledge he is protecting Americans and the world from the threat of bad guys bent on our destruction. His illusions are quickly blown away by said bad guys when he is captured while on a visit to Nonspecificistan by angry terrorist types, armed to the teeth with (gasp!) his very own weapons, and determined to force Stark to manufacture death rays for them. During the attack he receives a nasty dose of shrapnel and a chest wound a squirrel could live in, but is miraculously saved by a resourceful surgeon who installs a fetching hole cover attached to a car battery that stops the shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him. So far so good. Stephen Hawking-esque boffin that he is, Stark constructs a futuristic power source out of fluff and sticks that frees him of his battery, and inspires in him an escape plan just crazy enough to work. Instead of building a rocket of mass destruction as requested, he sneakily sets about constructing a huge tank-like power suit to allow his escape from the cave dwelling baddies, in an all stomping, fire spewing, rocket powered flight to freedom. Obvious really.

Thus returned to civilisation and his limitless wealth with a new hippy outlook, he upsets his stockholders and partner (an imposingly bald and bearded Jeff Bridges, who is of course the real villain) by declaring weapons are bad, we won't make those anymore. Cue hiding in his bat cave, refining his design of his er, non lethal flying power suit that fires all manner of lasers, energy pulses and rockets. To alleviate his terrible guilt of the violence he has begat, he uses his spiffy new suit to fly around the globe, violently destroying the illicitly sold weapons Bridges has been selling under the table to the bad men. The original bad men from act one meanwhile have been busying themselves reconstructing the remnants of the mark one suit, left for scrap in the desert. After a comic book "no I'm the real villain" switcharoo, the now really very evil and just a bit loopy Bridges pinches the plans, massacres the terrorists and sets about constructing his own monster suit, thus providing a worthy opponent for the final act in which the two go at it hammer and tongs.

If the plot sounds a bit wobbly, it is. But as with Hulk, this doesn't detract from the unabashed fun going on, and the script fits it's players like a well crafted mech suit. Downey Jr is instantly likable as the irreverent Stark, wisecracking his way into the hearts of the audience and most of the on screen ladies, including Paltrow's nicely played, if rather limp, Pepper Potts. Bridges proves that he should always be a villain from now on, even if his transition from suspiciously over friendly baldy to all murdering nut job is just a little jarring - all that stomping about, whatever is he hoping to achieve? Everyone else is fine, although Terence Howard doesn't get much to do but look exasperated. The Iron Man suit itself though, as he points out, is indeed very cool, mechanically forming around Stark like a well executed transformer, and bristling with pyrotechnics. The action on display is hugely satisfying with plenty of flying about, smashing people through walls and blowing up of both stuff and things. The movie manages to stay on the front foot for the duration, never seeming to drag even when it's just Downey chatting to his oddly English computer (Paul Bettany) or chastising his over zealous extinguisher bot, or indeed, falling for Gwyneth's drippy charms.

The overwhelming theme at work here is fun, and this pervades to the credits. Like the suit itself, Favreau has expertly engineered a fabulously entertaining movie around Downey Jr's performance and in so doing has set up what may turn out to be a great franchise. Take Downey out of the suit however, and it may ring hollow. Hopes for the future are suddenly high though- especially given the potential in the apparent cross pollination of the current Marvel heavy weights. Vorsprung durch Technik indeed.

Verdict 4/5

Not rusty

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