Friday, 12 January 2018

Approaching Infinity Part One: Iron Man (2008)

So here we are, a certain number of weeks away from the release of Avengers: Infinity war with a roughly equivalent number of Marvel Cinematic Universe films to watch. I've got a bad-ass projector, a pretty decent Blu-ray player and literally nothing else on my mind before we hit the 27th of April UK launch date. Fuck it - we're doing this!

Iron Man, for better or worse, changed the game for a decade of Hollywood history and counting. It took a low-risk, B-list character and a high-risk, B-list actor and did something that shouldn't have been possible with both: it made them relevant. It's not easy to pin down what made Iron Man hit the nerve it did, but a lot of it is probably down to the perfect match of cast to character. Downey was born to play this version of Stark. Watching the film a decade after its release, the performances still feel fresh even if some of the choices are perplexing. Gwyneth Paltrow jitters her way through the script in fast-forward while Jeff Bridges sounds like his clockworks need winding, casually chewing every line as if he's got literally nowhere else to be for the rest of his life. When the two of them share screen-space it feels like they're pulling in completely different directions. In a weird way, I guess that's a major part of why they work so well together. "Weirdly, it works" would probably have made a decent pull-quote for the posters.

Anyway, before this turns into a review for a ten-year-old film, here are the things that struck me this time around.

The Villain:
I've loved Jeff Bridges since Tron, and he does some great work here. It's pretty much an Evil Shadow part, though - which is something that crops up a lot in later MCU films. This time, it's Iron Man vs. Bad Iron Man.

The Story:
Iron Man is a self-contained origin story, of course, for both the hero and the villain. That said, I'm not exactly sure I understand what Stane's ultimate plan was toward the end. He's been found out, he's got shadowy government agents tracking him down and he's just left Stark to die with all evidence pointing to him and no credible alibi - not to mention without taking the trouble to be sure Tony croaks. Does he still think this situation is salvageable somehow? Is his plan of selling Iron Man tech to the highest bidder still viable once he's the most wanted man in the world? Will killing Pepper somehow fix things in a way that, say, skipping the country in a flying robot suit wouldn't?

Also, those final monologue lines about the irony of Tony trying to rid the world of weapons (which he really isn't) but instead giving it the best weapon ever (which he really hasn't) - and then being killed by it (which, of course, he wasn't) have me grinding my teeth to splinters.

The Universe:
Lots of set-up here, albeit retrospectively. I don't think anyone expected to see Coulson again after this, for instance. The Ten Rings, by contrast, looked like they were going to be a thing - or even THE thing. As it turned out, not so much.

The Stinger:
Heh - Sam Jackson playing a role whose likeness was based on Sam Jackson and who expresses at least once in the comics a specific desire to be played by Sam Jackson. I see what you did there, movie - in the sense that you punched it directly into my eyes and brain to be absolutely sure I couldn't MISS what you did there.

The Take-Away:
I'd still sit through this a dozen more times before I'd watch Batman V Superman again.

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