All together now: duuuh… duuuuh… duuuh duh duuuh… yes, the opening power chords of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man have been in my head for several days preceding and post-ceding (it should be a word) my recent cinema trip, the first for the month after a spate of non-cinema outings due to vaguely important events.
Coupled with the echoes of an ace riff was a heady mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because this was another comic book film (and there have been good ones - Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman Begins) directed by John Favreau (who did the underrated Elf among others) and starring Robert Downey Jr, whose on screen charisma is only overshadowed by the fact he is bloody gorgeous. Trepidation because this was another comic book film (and there have been some average ones - Hulk, Superman Returns - and some pap ones - Daredevil, Fantastic Four) and it features a bloke in an iron suit, which could be a bit naff. What we end up with is a film that doesn’t quite reach the joys of Spidey et al, but transcends pap and average into the “pretty good” zone.
“Pretty good” is replaced by “excellent” when taking in Downey Jr’s performance. Matched perfectly against his character Tony Stark, Downey is at his best when smug, gorgeous, arrogant, successful and gorgeous, juxtaposed with occasional flashes of fear, guilt and, well, being gorgeous (he does that a lot). Matching his turn in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey Jr manages to be a believable arse hole but still causes the audience to obtain an emotional attachment.
So with a strong lead in the bag, the film scores further points with a good mix of comedy, origin story and lots of things that go boom. As a comic product it naturally strays into the ludicrous and implausible (who knew that typing “translate” into a computer can make it automatically translate video? How clever!) but we can forgive that because it’s Iron Man, and he looks awesome when he’s all kitted out and hovering around his basement on rocket shoes.
What isn’t as easy to forgive is the dubious use of Afghanistan bad guys, living in caves and wearing t-shirts that say “designed to make Americans feel better”. Tony Stark makes kick-ass American weapons that can be used to wipe out thousands, but when he realises the same weapons have been sold to the Evil Foreigners he gets pretty upset, because then they might be used to kill “us”. And killing lots of foreigners is Ok, but killing Americans? This calls for a superhero!
It’s not quite as black-and-white as that, but when we stray into murkier territory with a traitor selling weapons to the enemy, we end up straying right back out and paint said traitor as a crazy man, rather than a realistic portrait of the weapons industry.
This slightly half-arsed foray into making a point and then making a really rubbish point taints Iron Man, but only a little bit. It is, on the whole, enjoyable, funny, thrilling, with a strong cast and superb effects, although probably didn’t need quite as many suit construction montages. With a whopping clue to a sequel, it’ll be interesting to see where they take this franchise. One thing’s certain - if Downey Jr’s still on board then get me a ticket to the boat.
Iron Man scores an extra point for being a solid comic book film, and an additional one simply for having a lot of Downey Jr in it, climbing up to a CF2. Duuuh… duuuuh… duuuh duh duuuh…