Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Marvel Superhero Movies part 2: Iron Man 1 and 2


Robert Downey Jr. has such a recognizable acting style, at least in Holmes and Iron Man. It makes me wonder if the characters he plays are written to be so tongue-in-cheek and rapid-speaking, or if Downey simply chooses to handle his dialogue that way.

Truthfully, neither of these movies really hit home for me. They're no Dark Knight, not by a long stretch. Instead, they fall into the typical witty-banter/light-hearted Superhero type movies that have been churned out millions of times before. The CG and special effects were nice, but expected, and seemed to function specifically to cover-up a severe shortage of meaningful plot and likeable characters.

Tony Stark is alright, but I don't find him appealing either as man or machine. Here's your generic, good bad-guy with some one-liners and a natural "genius." I respect that, but stripped of his super brains I'm left with almost nothing to root for. His sudden transition from seller of weapons to giant humanitarian came too fast to be believable. Yes, he was stuck in a cave with the enemy, but are we to believe that he only now realizes that weapons can be both good or evil depending on the hand it ends up in? I'd say the solution here would've been to clean-up your black market contracts rather than stop selling weapons entirely. Nice message, and convenient backdrop given the war in the Middle-East and all, but lacking any true solidity.

Downey also will need to work to convince me that he's not a self-absorbed jerk in real life. Every role I've seen him in is played exactly like that - flippant, rude, and cocky to a point where you want to hit him. His interview comments about how he initially told the Avengers director that Iron Man had to be the first hero to appear are so incredibly toolish. Like have you never bothered to watch your coworkers movies? What right do you have to demand that (aside from being the oldest guy there)?

Left: Terrence Howard, Right: Don Cheadle

Back to the movie casting, I'm really not fond of the last-minute switch they pulled on who played his African American friend in the two movies (Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard). If you have to pick a new actor, don't replace a light-hearted, goofily likeable character with an emo, completely different looking switch-up. Just because they're both black doesn't mean the audience can't tell the difference. I don't know where I've seen the second guy before, but I do remember him being stoic-faced and perpetually like someone with a stick in his arse (and always depressed). Don't even get me started on how sad I am that the first guy never got to try on the suit, even after his pointed "next time" line in the first movie. Marvel, your casting changes suck and you should stop making them, especially over money! Get some better negotiators or something instead!

What made it worse was how douchey the character was in the second film. Stealing his friend's suit? That's the stuff lawsuits are made of. What right did he have to put on the suit without permission and then go beat up his friend under the pretense of helping him? Last I checked, helping someone doesn't involve inflicting millions of damage on their house and running off with their property. Their reconciliation in the end was too simplistic and really failed to address these giant hanging issues. Having a rich friend doesn't entitle you to carelessly treat their stuff like shit.


There's also the giant, brushed aside issue of how every guy, no matter how inexperienced or physically unfit (ahem Jeff Bridges' villain in version 1) can become an immediate expert in operating the suit once they step in. If it were that simple, why did they spend all that time showing Tony struggling with it in movie 1? Really, if his friend could just jump in and start waving it around like a pro, yet Tony's supposed to be a genius, I'm left confused and a bit dissatisfied. So really there's nothing to keep Tony from being anything special as a superhero, considering how he could probably put Pepper in the suit and she could take over his job in a flash.


Finally, for the romantic side plot, I think Downey ended up having way more chemistry with Scarlett Johansson than Gwyneth Paltrow (and who can blame the guy). Black Widow was one of my favorite characters in the second film, easily topping Mickey Rourke's crazy/ugly Ivan as the most memorable and fun to watch person. I think the key was that she was played as an understated presence for the majority of the film until that one fun and kick-ass scene. I'm actually really looking forward to seeing her in The Avengers.


As for Gwyneth? I don't think I've ever thought of her as attractive, even back from Shakespeare in Love. I confuse her with Cate Blanchett more often than not (especially now that they've apparently switched hair colors) and her chemistry with Downey was tepid at best. And talk about a secretary-boss done-to-death cliche. I actually cringed when I saw their kiss scene, which really reflects how sudden and unnatural it came across as.

A disappointing series, and not a superhero I'm likely to ever be a major fan of. But now I'm finally caught up for Avengers, and can go in with all the proper background to appreciate the character interactions.

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